Situation stable: 2015 UTS Pharmacy Barometer

UTS Pharmacy Barometer
From left: Patrick O'Neill, Senior Relationship Manager, Healthcare and Pharmacy, Bankwest Business; Prof Charlie Benrimoj, Head of Graduate School of Health, UTS; Mario Saia State Manager NSW/ACT, Bankwest Business; Sandeep Grover, Regional Manager, Commercial North West , Bankwest Business

More pharmacists are confident in the future viability of community-based pharmacy than they were 12 months ago, however the majority remain “neutral” about the future rather than optimistic, according to the 2015 UTS Pharmacy Barometer.

THE FOCUS OF THE 2015 UTS Pharmacy Barometer was the recently signed Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement (6CPA), dispensing remuneration changes, discount on patient contributions, caps on services, remuneration for service providers and pharmacist working in medical practices.

The results indicate community pharmacy confidence has substantially improved, with an overall score of 93 out of 200 compared to last year’s score of 69, possibly due to the stabilisation effect of the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement (6CPA). However, an overall score of less than 100 still indicates a “neutral” outlook, suggesting pharmacists are either yet to understand the full economic and professional implications of the 6CPA or uncertain about the economic element and how to move forward.

Signing the 6CPA was considered by policy decision makers to be a turning point for the payment of services and products in community pharmacy. The agreement highlights the move away from reimbursement based on the cost of medication by essentially deleting the mark-up components and increasing funds available for services. Ultimately this changes the central paradigm of community pharmacy from one that focuses on margins to one that is primarily service driven.

Professor Charlie Benrimoj, head of UTS Graduate School of Health says, “the 6CPA, although providing a more stable foundation for the industry in the area of dispensing remuneration, will inevitably produce much change in community pharmacy. If it does not, the future of community pharmacy as a provider of health services will be damaged”.

The results of the UTS Community Pharmacy Barometer indicate that the situation in community pharmacy is stable, “but this is not enough”, Prof Benrimoj told pharmacy leaders at the 2015 Pharmacy Leadership Lunch. The results indicate a perception by community pharmacists that either there’s nobody out there helping them or the positive messages about the 6CPA are not getting through, he said.

Overall pharmacists were fairly neutral (mean of 6.15 out of 10 (SD: 2.17), about the 6CPA dispensary remuneration change, from a mark-up to a fixed administration and handling and infrastructure fee. This “neutral’ may indicate that they do not fully understand the value of the agreement with the clear implications for the signatories to deliver an expanded education and information program in order for owners to extract the full value of the negotiated position. Interestingly a small percentage of pharmacist’s (18%) intend to apply the $1 discount to patient contribution. However most respondents were in a “wait and see” mode and would react to local competitive forces.

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia director Warwick Plunkett said “the UTS Community Pharmacy Barometer highlights the fact that community pharmacist employees, community pharmacy owners and managers, and the pharmaceutical industry cannot continue with the current business and professional model. A number of major reforms have, and will continue to have, impact on the delivery, focus and funding of health in Australia.”

Almost all respondents identified professional services and increasing patient focus (including fostering pharmacist–patient interaction) as the greatest opportunities for community pharmacy over the next three years. However more than half the respondents were not considering changing their business model, but of the third who were most (82%) would move to a health destination service model.

Caps on services were generally not supported with audits on quality services promulgated. There was overall support (61% of owners and 66% pharmacist in charge/pharmacy mangers/ employed pharmacists) for service provider pharmacist to receive up to 20% more salary than other pharmacists. All pharmacist types supported the concept of pharmacists working in GP surgeries. However opinion was split on whether it should be a community pharmacist on a sessional basis or a pharmacist being employed by medical practitioners.

Two hundred and one pharmacists drawn from the IMS Health panel participated in the Fifth wave of the UTS Community Pharmacy Barometer, conducted in September 2015. According to UTS, the Barometer serves as an annual pulse check, which captures and tracks the viability of pharmacy business, the profession, perceptions and opinions.

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