Pharmacy must be integral in Health Care Homes

health services: pharmacist talks to patient

Pharmacy needs to be a key part of Health Care Homes if the initiative is to succeed

The Pharmacy Guild said today that it strongly supports the Federal Government’s Health Care Homes primary care reforms, but pharmacists must play a strong role.

Guild National President George Tambassis says the HCHs provide the opportunity to move towards a more integrated and coordinated approach to meeting the primary care needs of patients with complex, chronic health conditions.

But “in order for the HCHs to succeed in delivering better, more cost-effective health outcomes for patients with complex needs, it is imperative that their community pharmacy is an integral part of the primary care team,” Mr Tambassis said.

“More than any other healthcare professional, the community pharmacist is responsible for ensuring that patients are adherent with their medicines and that their medication-related needs are being met. 

“Community pharmacies are also the most frequently visited and accessible primary healthcare destination in Australia.”

Mr Tambassis says that the patients who stand to benefit most from the HCH trials are highly likely to be reliant upon significant numbers of prescription and other pharmacy medicines.

“If their adherence with these medicines is not regularly monitored and assessed by their community pharmacist and any issues are not expeditiously identified and addressed, it is unlikely that the broader health benefits of their primary care plans will ever be realised,” he points out.

Mr Tambassis said the Guild is committed to enabling its community pharmacy members, including in the 10 Primary Health Networks conducting the HCH trials, to work with their local GP practices and allied health providers to ensure that HCH patients receive the highest quality medication management support.

It will be important that local GP practices that are participating in the HCH trials include their local community pharmacies in the teams that are responsible for planning and delivering the care needs of their HCH patients, he says.

Equally, community pharmacies will need to know which of their patients are HCH patients, so that they can ensure that they are receiving all the necessary support with their medications, including regular ongoing communication with their GP practice.

“The link between the patient’s GP and their community pharmacy is arguably the most important link in the entire health system. The HCHs must maintain and strengthen this link and not undermine or disintermediate it in any way,” Mr Tambassis said.

“The Guild wishes to stress that it is not seeking additional funding from the Federal Government’s HCHs budget for community pharmacies to fulfil their vital role in the HCH trials.

“In the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement, the Federal Government committed $600 million from 1 July 2015 for new and expanded community pharmacy programs. The Pharmacy Guild is committed to working with the Federal Government to ensure these budgeted and approved funds are fully expended and appropriately targeted to improve health outcomes for patients and consumers.

“This 6CPA funding provides the opportunity to utilise and enhance well-established community pharmacy programs such as Dose Administration Aids (medicine packing), Staged Supply, Clinical Interventions and medicines management reviews (MedsChecks, Home Medicines Reviews) with a strong focus on ensuring that HCH patients receive the best possible medication-related care and support from their community pharmacist.”

The Guild is also working closely and constructively with the recently formed Australian Digital Health Agency to ensure that clinicians, including GPs, specialists, hospitals and community pharmacists have shared access to patients’ most up-to-date lists of prescription and other medications. This will greatly benefit HCH patients who may well be transitioning regularly between different forms of care, it says.

In publicly confirming its support for the HCHs and its commitment to work closely with the Government in maximising its success, the Guild strongly encourages other health peak bodies to do likewise.

The HCHs provide an unprecedented opportunity to integrate the excellent work of health professionals across the primary care system in a way that will reduce duplication, increase collaboration and deliver a coordinated approach to addressing the needs of patients with complex, chronic health conditions, it says.

The Guild’s stance echoes the words of Senator Richard Di Natale, who told the Guild’s annual Parliamentary dinner late last year that the health sector risked underutilising pharmacists.

“The Health Care Home trial is one example where we risk failing to capture the full skills and knowledge of Australia’s highly trained pharmacists,” Di Natale said.

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