Pharmacists’ true value not yet realised: PSA

Dr Shane Jackson

Pharmacists are the healthcare professionals best placed to address the crisis in medicine safety in Australia, and could contribute to cost savings of $1.4 billion per annum, said the Interim CEO of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA), Dr Shane Jackson.

Dr Jackson was speaking on stage during a panel discussion at the Australian Pharmacy Professional Conference (APP 2019) on the Gold Coast on the subject of ‘Redefining value in the management of chronic disease.’

‘As we know from the Medicine Safety: Take Care report released by PSA earlier this year, over 600,000 Australians report to hospitals each year because of medicine-related problems, which could be avoided. We’ve got an opportunity to put up our hand and say we can have a greater level of involvement – pharmacists are the best placed to address some of those medicine safety issues and contribute to cost savings to taxpayers of $1.4 billion dollars.

‘It comes back to our Pharmacists in 2023 document, which is about empowering our profession and taking a greater level of responsibility for the safe use of medicines,’ Dr Jackson said.

‘Pharmacists need a structure where we can sit down, if necessary, and solve a patient’s presenting problems – sometimes acutely, but often in a preventive way for that patient. I know we do that every day, but there are challenges in the remuneration structure to incentivise that.

‘We’ve got half the people taking the medicines that they should when they should, and reaching their treatment goals. But if the person is not taking the medicine or is getting side effects from those medicines, then we’re not getting value for money.

‘Medicine adherence and optimisation means making sure that those medicines are reaching the treatment goals that are defined. Otherwise, as a community we are actually not getting the health benefits and the value that we should.’

An extraordinary step forward

Dr Jackson reminded delegates of the recent policy advances in the area of chronic disease management as a result of PSA advocacy.

‘One of the opportunities we’ve got for better integration comes with the recent recommendation of the Review Taskforce of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) – for the first time ever pharmacists have been recommended to be included on the MBS.

Dr Jackson said that this major step forward step forward is something PSA has been very much on the front foot with.

‘The recommendations allow us to be involved with case conferencing with the practice nurse and the GP for patients with chronic disease. Importantly, GPs can refer patients to the pharmacist for consultations directed at the health needs of that person. We see this as the first step in the greater recognition of pharmacist’s role in the healthcare system and better integration of those services.’

‘This is the reason that we train as pharmacists – to deliver that health outcome, to improve the lives of patients,’ said Dr Jackson. ‘It’s about looking into your own heart and saying, “This is why I’m a pharmacist, to use our expertise to deliver the outcome that we know we can deliver”.’