Pharmacy program gets bigger

pharmacist workforce people growing numbers

MedsCheck costs have almost doubled over the last two years, newly released data reveals

The amount paid by the Federal Government in relation to claims made by pharmacists for the MedsCheck and Diabetes MedsCheck programs has almost doubled in the last two years.

Data released by the Department of Health shows that payments for claims under the two programs jumped from $9.13 million in 2015/16 to $12.3 million in 2016/17 and then to $17.7 million for 2017/18 – up to the 30 April.

The latest jump coincides with the increase in the amount of MedsCheck and Diabetes MedsCheck services pharmacists are able to undertake and claim for – from 10 to 20 per calendar month – from 1 July 2017. 

“In addition, from 1 February 2018, participating pharmacies were also able to include additional fees for the collection and provision of health outcomes data on patients receiving these services,” the Department said.

The figures were released recently in response to questions from the May Senate Estimates Committee hearings. 

Senators had asked a series of questions about the MedsCheck and Diabetes MedsCheck programs, including how much money was spent on the program annually, and what was the level of uptake by pharmacies.

As of 8 June 2018 there were 5,410 pharmacies registered to provide services under the MedsCheck program, with 5,392 registered to provide the standard MedsCheck and 5,399 to provide Diabetes MedsCheck.

“The difference between the figures is as a result of some pharmacies being registered to provide either one or both of the MedsCheck services,” the response stated. 

During the May hearings, Senator Stirling Griff (Nick Xenophon Team, SA) questioned whether pharmacies should be remunerated for providing MedsChecks.

In response to his question asking what should happen if a patient experiences a significant medical event within a year of having a MedsCheck, Julianne Quaine, assistant secretary, PHI and Pharmacy Branch, of the Department’s Technology Assessment and Access Division said: “If a patient is still accessing a community pharmacist and accessing medicines, the pharmacist certainly does have a professional obligation to answer any of their questions about the medicines or discuss any issues they are having in terms of side-effects. That is part of the pharmacist’s normal professional practice.

Senator Griff said in response “does this mean that also pharmacists who participate in MedsCheck are effectively being paid extra to do a job that they should already be doing as part of their responsibilities?”

“No, I think the MedsCheck is over and above the normal professional practice of a pharmacist,” Ms Quaine responded.

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