Pharmacy’s future lies in the delivery of professional services as it moves away from the purely supply function, delegates at the Friendlies’ Conference were told.
“I don’t think I would have said that 10 years ago because I didn’t think as a profession we were ready. But I do now because there are so many opportunities where we can do more,” said Dr Lance Emerson, PSA CEO.
He said baby boomers are spending more on health services; but as nation we are not managing chronic disease well.
“Australia has one of highest rates of chronic diseases among OECD countries. Pharmacy can do more in chronic disease management, especially in areas where access to healthcare is low and the need is great.”
Emerson cited how Aboriginal life expectancy was the same today as it would have been 100 years ago for a person from a non-Indigenous background.
“That’s a national disgrace.”
But opportunities also lie in the growth of self-care; the general move away from goods to services, which people are willing to pay for; and the growing recognition of pharmacy’s changing role.
For example, surveys show 80% of people believe pharmacy is capable of offering more, he said. So, as a profession we must embrace these opportunities, he said.
One example is the recent success of in-pharmacy flu vaccinations; one which the public has been willing to pay for.
“In fact, recent research demonstrated flu vaccination reduces the risk of heart attacks—this is a great public health benefit.”
Minor ailments, he said, is an area where pharmacy can do more as it is “the number one cab off the rank, especially in the UK”.
“There have been consistent findings that minor ailments in pharmacy do work. It doesn’t reduce GP consultations as it frees them up, and is positive for hospital emergency departments. In fact, research has shown that pharmacy is the most cost effective way to deal with minor ailments,” he added.
However, to make the most of these opportunities, pharmacy needs to plan and not rely on the government to fund these new health services. Also, pharmacy cannot keep piloting programs and then switching to something else.
“We need to embed them in our practice and develop our own models to fund them, backed by evidence and data so that we know that they are cost effective and improve health outcomes,” said Emerson.