Why pharmacists have the answer to GPs’ woes

easyEMPLOYER CEO Michael Hazillias shares his thoughts on a new way of thinking about the role of pharmacies in primary care.

When I’m out talking to pharmacists, the conversation almost always turns to profitability. Supermarkets are selling pharmaceuticals, cutting into pharmacies’ revenue. So pharmacists are understandably worried about keeping their business above water.

Until very recently, all the solutions I’d seen talked about were solutions in pharmacies’ domain. We’ve even spoken about some of those fixes in this blog, like streamlining HR processes, or opening up new revenue streams with complimentary therapies.

Then I read an article that showed me a whole new way of looking at this problem. One which treats pharmacies, and what they have to offer, as part of a bigger picture.
Our GPs are drowning in work. Across the profession, we’re seeing reports of GPs dealing with:

  • an ageing population
  • increasing prevalence of chronic diseases
  • declining numbers of GPs to service these needs.

GPs are overworked and stressed, stuck in reactive mode. So it’s understandable that the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has recently called for increased funding to the GP sector.
The AMA has diagnosed the problem correctly, but they’ve only looked at one remedy. What about allowing pharmacists to step in and take some of the load?

I read a recent article in Pharmacy News, where the Pharmacy Guild of Australia had this to say about the latest reports of overworked GPs:

“These findings make it all the more sensible for a broader and better utilisation of the health infrastructure and expertise of the community pharmacy network.”
In this light, having pharmacists take on more of a role in primary care isn’t just good for pharmacies’ business model. It’s good for GPs too.

Here are just some of the ways pharmacists can help:

  • Providing ‘early warning’ diagnostic services, including blood pressure monitors
  • Disease management: disease state management services for consumers with chronic conditions e.g. diabetes, respiratory disease, and cardiovascular disease
  • Screening and risk assessment of consumers at risk of developing a range of health conditions
  • Health promotion targeting consumers and the community, for health and well-being education and information.

What’s more, I believe that there are even some ways that pharmacists are better placed than GPs to deliver some primary care services:

  • Location: Pharmacists are already more ‘out there’ in the community; being located in shopping centres and on main streets means that pharmacies are already where the people are.
  • Infrastructure: Pharmacists are set up to handle complex services (including their computer systems), while GP practices are still set up around the consultation with a practitioner.

I’d like to see the cross-profession collaborations that pharmacies have started taken further, to relieve the pressure on our GPs. To me, that’s a win-win solution.
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