Pharmacists can “shine” in general practice, says GP

Queensland GP Dr Justin Coleman has created a video to highlight the value of non-dispensing pharmacists in Australia

In his video, Dr Coleman explains the useful skills and knowledge that non-dispensing pharmacists provide to his own medical practice, from deprescribing to drug education.

Pharmacists can help with in-house research, adding valuable insight to discussions on opioid policy and how to deal with drug interactions or patients who take complementary or alternative medicines, he says.

The idea of pharmacists in general practice is “good for patients, good for doctors, good for the budget … general practice is a place for pharmacists to shine,” Dr Coleman concludes.

He came up with idea for the video in partnership with consultant practice pharmacists Debbie Rigby and Chris Freeman.

So far the few pharmacists who have entered this space, as well as the doctors that have them on their team, are loving it – but “we need more”, says Dr Coleman.

There are currently 26 pharmacists working within GP practices in Australia, according to the PSA, while over 200 pharmacists have registered their interest in working in the space.

The biggest obstacle is funding, says Dr Coleman, as some doctors are concerned about how such a system would be funded, especially in current climate.

“How is it going to be financed? That’s the single biggest obstacle, especially with the current rebate freeze,” he told AJP.

Some doctors are also wary of outsourcing GP skills, although Dr Coleman doesn’t think this is an issue.

“In the end, I think general practice is a team and I don’t believe having an extra member ‘dumbs down’ our skills,” he says.

The Australian Medical Association and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia have been jointly calling for government support for the integration of pharmacists into general practice for the past few years.

“Working in collaboration with GPs in general practice provides the ideal setting for pharmacists to utilise their complementary skills, to ensure the quality use of medicines and the reduction of adverse drug events in patients,” the AMA wrote in their 2016 pre-budget submission.

Such a model would save the health system $545 million over four years through fewer avoidable hospital admissions and a reduction in unnecessary medication use, according to independent research commissioned by the AMA.

Watch the full video:

Visit Dr Justin Coleman’s website.

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1 Comment

  1. Melissa

    More funds are spent when you need 4-5 health professionals engaging one client and potentially this also further fragments treatment and potentially overwhelms the client. There are also then ‘turf wars’ among allied health practitioners for the small amount of MBS available for allied health (5 appointments/year). What about if – as an adjunct to the GP – you could have most of these skills that you have mentioned in one practitioner? It’s the advantage of holism. – “Type 2 diabetes epitomizes the need for “holism” in clinical medicine because diabetes impacts all systems in the body… NDs frequently act as de facto primary care providers in their ability to consolidate and coordinate care for patients”

    Additionally you have someone who has the capacity to help a person navigate the health system, check CAM/drug interactions and empower the patient themselves to make small pragmatic changes to managing their own mental, emotional and physical health. Those who are upskilled can also review the evidence and most of them already spend 4 years in a bachelors degree as it is.

    Additionally they are an underutilised workforce that are marginalised due to their popularity –

    A well trained naturopath not only has the ability to spend time with the patient but they also have the capacity to manage clients holistically and understand the need for medication review in 65+. They are also educated advocates for deprescribing in conjunction with the GP.

    Of course its a stretch to go from being inadequately self-regulated to this but one can dream.

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