Tapping into self-care expansion

Role in heartburn advice illustrates pharmacists’ potential for patient self-care support

The treatment of heartburn provides a valuable case study in how the role played by pharmacists in aiding and supporting patient self-care can be better utilised, experts say.

A recent review by an international expert panel identified the management of frequent heartburn as a strong example of an area where pharmacists can “guide individuals in making healthy lifestyle choices, recommend appropriate OTC medications and educate consumers about when they should consult a physician”.

“Heartburn and regurgitation is a prime example of a generally mild condition that is ideal for self-care,” said the authors, who included John Bell, former PSA national vice-president, currently at UTS.

To do so would entail pharmacists’ playing an important role in identifying consumers who are suitable for self-treating heartburn and reinforcing directions around product labelling and usage.

“Lifestyle modifications and numerous OTC treatment options are available that have been shown to be safe and effective,” they said. “Pharmacists can be expected to play a key role in educating consumers about the proper use of these products, including, for instance, following label instructions and consulting a physician if symptoms recur at the end of the assigned treatment period or if other alarm features appear”.

The authors said an expansion of pharmacists’ role in self-care provided economic benefits to both governments and consumers, freed up GP and emergency department resources and increased utilisation of pharmacists as front-line healthcare providers.

It also fitted in with the expansion of the professional service role of pharmacists in Australia and overseas, they added.  

Expansion of pharmacists’ self-care role in a range of key conditions would result in savings of an estimated $3.86 billion in avoided doctors’ visits and $6.55 billion in productivity gains, the authors said.

This equated to a saving over $4 per dollar spent, and $2.1 billion in additional savings of 11 prescription medicine categories were switched to OTC.

The article was published in the journal Advanced Therapeutics

Photo by NY.

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