Reforming primary care

Malcolm Turnbull

Inclusion of pharmacy in health reform package essential

The federal government’s newly released plans to overhaul and rationalise primary care of chronically ill patients’ strongly reiterate the core role of pharmacists, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia believes.

Health Minister Sussan Ley today announced the Healthier Medicare package as “one of the biggest health system reforms since the introduction of Medicare 30 years ago”.

The reforms will allow patients with multiple chronic conditions to get a health care package tailored to their needs and that care will then be co-ordinated to help them easily navigate the complex system, Ms Ley said.

“As many as one-in-five Australians now live with two or more chronic health conditions,” she said.

“The most prominent are diabetes, heart disease, cancer, mental health, eye disease, respiratory conditions and arthritis – requiring a range of health services from their GP through to specialists, nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, psychologists, dieticians and weight-loss programs”.

The primary care package will be trialled through creating ‘Health Care Homes’ that will be responsible for the ongoing co-ordination, management and support of a patient’s care.

About 65,000 Australians will participate in initial two-year trials in up to 200 medical practices from 1 July 2017.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia welcomed the reforms and the recognition of the vital role played by pharmacists by both the Health Minister, and by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Guild national president George Tambassis said it was “indisputable” that the Quality Use of Medicines, with a strong focus on active medication management, advice and support through community pharmacies, was essential in managing the health of patients with chronic health conditions.

“Virtually all of the patients that will benefit from the Turnbull Government’s primary care reforms have highly complex medicine regimens with many of them reliant on ten or more medicines to manage their conditions,” he said.

“The task now is to ensure that community pharmacists are an essential participant in the health care team managing the coordinated care of patients with chronic health conditions.

“Otherwise these reforms will not deliver the health outcomes these patients need, nor will they succeed in tackling Australia’s unacceptably high levels of hospital admission and readmission.

The reforms also include improved use of digital health measures to improve patient access and efficiency, including the new MyHealth Record, telehealth and teleweb services, remote health monitoring and medication management technologies; and a risk stratification tool to determine an individual patient’s eligibility for the new packages

Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King has criticised the lack of detail in the announcement.

“A rushed thought bubble means the devil is in the detail,” she said.

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  1. Ron Batagol

    It’s great, at long last, to see that a concerted effort is to be made in a coordinated way, to focus on a collaborative approach at primary care level to manage chronically ill patients within their own communities, instead of “patching them” up in hospital and letting them go until the next “patch up”hospital episode. Myself and many others have written and asked Health Ministers over many years to set up such a system and to fully incorporate and utiilise (and pay for) the expertise of pharmacists along with other health professionals at the community level.If implemented properly, there should be a dramatic decrease in unnecessary hospital emergency and inpatient episodes, but most importantly far better prevention, management and outcome of a whole range chronic diseases within the community.

  2. Bruce ANNABEL

    It’s good to see some money and broad community professional resources, including pharmacists potentially, being directed into prevention instead of the usual expensive remedial approach to health. George Tambassis is absolutely right that pharmacists have a vital role in medication management but why stop there. Pharmacies are highly accessible health care centres patients may visit at virtually any time with skilled and trusted pharmacists always available. Spreading skills to engage in collaboration with GP’s and the newly coined patient ‘Health care home’ (?) in areas such as obesity, diabetes, nutrition/diet, cardio vascular, eye care, respiratory and arthritis. And the new services trials announced by Minister Ley at APP ’16 will have a vital role including diabetes screening and referral, aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders medication management and hospital discharge medication counselling.
    The key to community pharmacy unlocking the potential is changing the culture of dispensing chemist to patient focussed professional service and services. For many this lies in the area of ‘culture shock’ and has been resisted for years yet is the key to partaking in the opportunity announced.

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