Patients support wider role for community pharmacies

pharmacist doing blood pressure check

Patients strongly support enhancing the role of Australia’s community pharmacies in the health system, according to two pieces of consumer research released by the Pharmacy Guild.

The quantitative and qualitative research pieces were undertaken prior to and at the mid-point of the Pharmacy Guild’s Discover More. Ask Your Pharmacist consumer advertising campaign.

The second phase of the campaign, highlighting the important health care role of community pharmacies in areas like health checks, after-hospital care, pain management and in-home care, will hit the nation’s TV screens and websites in early February.

The first piece of research was conducted by BBS Communications, which interviewed focus groups of patients from Gympie (Qld), Armidale (NSW), Strathpine (Qld) and Sydney (NSW).

The BBS research confirmed the high levels of public trust in community pharmacies and that patients want to utilise their local pharmacies to access a wider array of health services, support and advice.

National President of the Pharmacy Guild, George Tambassis, says the BBS research shows 80% of participants have already sought health advice from a pharmacist instead of their GP.

“When shown a list of services currently accessible from pharmacies, 82% of participants said they would be more inclined to access these services from a pharmacy instead of their GP,” Tambassis says.

“The survey participants also indicated they would be willing to access a wide range of services if they were available in pharmacies, including vaccinations, screening, prevention and wellness checks, and pain management services.

“Over 80% believed they get value for money from their pharmacies and nearly two-thirds indicated they would be willing to pay a small fee to access services from their pharmacies.”

The second piece of research was conducted by Jigsaw Research Australia, and involved a national survey of women aged 25-44 with children.

Mr Tambassis says that the Jigsaw Research found that, after GPs, the local pharmacy is the next most likely first port of call for non-emergency medical needs, with 73% of respondents likely or very likely to visit a local pharmacy for advice.

“The research showed that patients who were less frequent visitors to pharmacy were more likely to consider using a pharmacy for advice and/or treatment for a non-emergency illness, injury or medical condition after seeing the Discover More. Ask Your Pharmacist TV commercial,” he says.

“This accords with the 2014 PWC Consumer Needs and Expectations Survey which found that 52% of consumers will go to pharmacies in the future for advice on minor ailments, chronic pain relief and chronic conditions, compared with 46% who would go to their GP.”

Tambassis says that strong consumer support for enhancing the role of community pharmacies as health care destinations has also been strongly confirmed in the interim report of the outcomes from the recent flu vaccination trial in Qld pharmacies.

“Amongst the 10,000 patients who were vaccinated in the trial, there were a number who opted to have their vaccination in the pharmacy even though they were eligible for the free vaccination at their GP, citing accessibility and affordability as key drivers,” Mr Tambassis says.

“Overall, 96% of patients were satisfied with their pharmacy vaccination experience with 95% saying they would receive their flu vaccination in a pharmacy in the future.

“These are outstanding results and clearly demonstrate that consumers are comfortable with the quality and the value of the vaccination service provided by pharmacies.”

He says the Guild will continue to advocate strongly to enhance the role of community pharmacies in areas like minor ailments, extended repeat prescriptions, post hospital medicine reconciliation, basic health checks and screening, prevention in areas such as smoking cessation, and support for patients with mental health conditions.

“In all these areas, pharmacists working with other health professionals like GPs can help deliver better health outcomes for patients and a more cost-effective and sustainable health system for all Australians,” Mr Tambassis says.

In acknowledging the role of community pharmacy, Bowel Cancer Australia chief executive Julien Wiggins said the charity was supportive of measures that increased accessibility to bowel cancer screening.

“We need to make it as easy as possible for people to access bowel cancer tests, given screening is recommended from age 50 every 1-2 years,” says Wiggins.

“Pharmacy has played an important role in both raising awareness of, and providing access to, bowel cancer screening programs for many years.

“The opportunity is to ensure more Australians participate in screening so these programs can reach their full life-saving potential.  If this can be achieved through the better utilisation of pharmacy, Bowel Cancer Australia would be supportive of such efforts.”

Also acknowledging the role of pharmacy for patients with asthma, The National Asthma Council Australia stated, “We have always had the view that pharmacists are an essential member of the asthma management team of patient, doctor and pharmacist.

“Pharmacists are best placed to advise people with asthma on correct device use and to refer them to their doctor if overusing reliever medication.”

The Guild has also released a fact sheet for consumers as part of the Discover More. Ask Your Pharmacist campaign, outlining a range of ways that consumers can already save money by better utilising their pharmacies.

These savings could be significantly increased through the adoption of the Guild’s proposals to further enhance the role of community pharmacies, it says.

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