Two banner groups have spoken out in defence of pharmacy health checks, saying they help boost positive health outcomes
Earlier this week, Fairfax media published a report which quoted Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Victoria chair Dr Cameron Loy, warning of the “dangers” of pharmacy health checks.
Pharmacies were “making health a commodity and further fragmenting Australia’s healthcare system,” he said, accusing the sector of being “motivated by money”.
He urged consumers not to make use of the tests.
The article targeted Priceline and Amcal tests, including the StrokeCheck initiative, in which a not-for-profit had been set to work with Amcal to identify at-risk patients, which was put aside by Amcal after backlash from doctor groups.
Priceline’s women’s health check was also singled out.
Amcal and Priceline expressed disappointment at Dr Loy’s comments.
“It is a shame the RACGP has attempted to fracture the good working relationship between Pharmacists and GPs,” said Richard Vincent, API CEO and managing director.
“I would encourage the RACGP to redirect their focus to ensuring there is the best possible care available for all Australians by supporting and working in alignment with all health care providers.”
Pharmacists provide complementary care through offering a triage process, rather than a diagnosis, through screening patients, offering expert advice and often referring to a GP, he told the AJP.
“We are seeing patients proactively having their health checked at their local Priceline Pharmacy because they trust the advice provided by their trained and medically-recognised pharmacist.
“Pharmacists build a relationship with their patients over years, sometimes decades, and see them more frequently their GP. Pharmacists often provide advice to the whole family and patients come into store as a first step because they know they’ll receive personalised care.
“There are many examples showing the positive impact pharmacy-led health services have on the community.”
One such example was the “highly successful” Priceline Pharmacy flu vaccination program, which has seen 150,000 vaccinations administered this year, Mr Vincent said.
“Priceline Pharmacies are run and owned by highly trained and qualified pharmacists, who invest in both getting to know their patients and providing the best care possible.
“Every day patients are walking into their local Priceline Pharmacy for free health advice and these health checks are a way to let people know these services are available.”
A spokesperson for Amcal said that a collaborative approach between pharmacists and doctors offers optimal health outcomes for patients, “which is why all of our in-pharmacy tests include a call-to-action to visit a GP”.
“We value the important role of all healthcare professionals in empowering patients to take better care of their health and endeavour to assist in re-engaging Australians with their GPs.
“Amcal continues to acknowledge the important role GPs, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals provide in ensuring any and all patients who walk through our doors have many accessible resources to help manage their own healthcare.”
The spokesperson said that the group’s aim is to “empower our patients to take better care of themselves” and that the Heart Health Check mentioned in the Fairfax article – which is not linked to StrokeCheck – ends with a discussion about future appointments a patient may need to make, such as visiting a GP or dentist or following up their blood pressure reading.
It also helps them identify and record their heart health team and refers to a GP where appropriate, in an example of interprofessional collaboration, the spokesperson said.
“This personalised referral to the patient’s GP ensures Amcal is working in collaboration with other healthcare providers to help patients identify and manage their risk of potential heart disease.”
Pharmacists can play a key role in helping patients keep in touch with the health sector and engage with their GP, they said.
“Particular risk factors such as having a family history of heart disease, smoking, or having high blood pressure can mean these demographics are more likely to have future heart health complications. For many of these demographics, getting to a doctor isn’t always possible so our services provide a fast and effective way to identify potential signs of future risk and where appropriate, re-engage those very same people to visit the GP.
“As pharmacists are well aware, many Australians (and many more unreported) avoid visiting their GP due to costs or time constraints, instead focusing on self-diagnosis or utilising the advice of other health care professionals, such as pharmacists.
“Research shows that patients are more likely to visit their pharmacist than GP, with an average of 14 pharmacy visits per year, compared with 1–5 GP visits per year (Roy Morgan, 2016, Pharmacy Guild Australia, National Health Performance Authority).”
By providing heart health services and health screenings to patients, pharmacists have the opportunity to speak with patients about issues including the importance of regular risk assessment for chronic conditions; the importance of regular monitoring for people living with heart disease and other chronic health conditions; and the importance of patients working in conjunction with their GPs and pharmacists to ensure optimal health outcomes.
“We’re really proud of the many pharmacists in our network who tell us how receptive the community has been to these free checks,” the spokesperson said.