Shades of grey: a growing issue

Pharmacies have a crucial role to play in filling the gaps in the healthcare of the growing population of Grey Nomads

Australia’s growing population of ‘Grey Nomad’ travellers are facing issues of healthcare dislocation and fragmentation of care, say researchers.

Pharmacy is part of the problem, but also part of the solution identified in a series of interviews with Australians aged over 60 who have recently travelled extensively and who have a chronic health condition. 

Researchers from the University of Wollongong’s School of Nursing surveyed 33 individuals, conducting detailed interviews with eight who were aged between 62 and 69 years.

“Participants faced challenges when negotiating health services while travelling, most of which are systems related,” they said.

“It was evident that Grey Nomads with chronic conditions face several challenges related to continuity of care both at an individual service provider level and at a more broadly based infrastructure level,” the authors said.

One such challenge was the difficulty of either getting medications prescribed or getting the scripts filled at pharmacies.

Pharmacies in some rural and remote areas were reported to have limited or no stock of some medications.

One respondent said: “In some of these small towns … they don’t carry refrigerated products … I had to go another 120 kilometres to get the Byetta I needed.”

Another had a similar experience : “[They] had to order [medications] in so that meant we
were stuck there for another three or four days”.

Additionally, prescriptions written interstate represented a challenge, with one interviewee saying:
“We were in Mitchell in Queensland, and I was on a course of [Clexane] … and I’d run out. I took it [prescription] to the pharmacy, but they wouldn’t fill it because it was … a New South Wales doctor that had done it and so they couldn’t verify.”

With the increase in Grey Nomads touring Australia, understanding the experience of living with chronic disease on the road is critical to ensure that health services meet the needs of this group, the authors said.

“The fragmentation and lack of continuity of care experienced by participants highlight systems issues that provide opportunities to improve the health care of Grey Nomads”.

One solution they proposed is that rural and remote health services could provide guidance to travellers about service access and availability within their region to facilitate this planning.

In addition, “the desire expressed by participants to assume responsibility and enhance self-management of their conditions demonstrates an opportunity to enhance healthful ageing through support services and healthcare planning provision by healthcare clinicians working in partnership with Grey Nomads”.

The study was published in the Australian Journal of Primary Health.

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1 Comment

  1. pagophilus

    Well, we have a grey nomad on lenalidomide and Celgene in all their wisdom has an internal rule that they won’t approve more than 3 months at a time. Patient needs 4 months. So, somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the outback said patient will need to find some lenalidomide. Given that a public hospital HSD script cannot be dispensed in a private pharmacy (PBS won’t pay) patient will have to find a PBS-dispensing public hospital somewhere out there.

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