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The Expanded Role for Australian Community Pharmacy in Chronic Disease Management

The Expanded Role for Australian Community Pharmacy in Chronic Disease Management

For many of us in Australia, the local pharmacist was always the unseen person in white, usually buried deep in the back of the store busily mixing pills and potions and rarely engaging directly with the customer.

Fast forward to 2017 and the local pharmacist is more likely to welcome you at the front counter and offer you a comfortable seat whilst he or she organises your prescription to be filled by a dispensing robot. So, what’s driven the change and what does it mean for consumers?

The growing burden of chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease has led to an increased need for the health system to focus on primary care as a front-line solution to improving health outcomes. Governments are recognising the important role that Community Pharmacy can play in bridging the gap between the consumer and the traditional health system. Resources are scarce and ensuring access to effective and continuing health care for chronic diseases is a high priority especially with an ageing population.

Engaging the consumer is key to delivering healthcare in the right place at the right time and in the right way. Early intervention and a focus on continuing care has led many Community Pharmacists to introduce a broad range of dedicated in-store professional services to support diagnosis and management of diabetes, risk assessment for cardiovascular disease, simpler medication management, lifestyle reviews and the like.

Engaging the consumer is key to delivering healthcare in the right place at the right time and in the right way.

Providing Haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) testing as part of a professional services offering is just one example where Community Pharmacy is taking the lead in delivering patient-focused healthcare services by helping people with diabetes better manage their condition. Regular HbA1c testing is recommended for monitoring glycaemic control with HbA1c a measure of the average blood glucose levels over the previous 12 weeks1.  With an estimated 1.7 million Australians2 living with diabetes, the need to proactively manage the condition is paramount to reducing unnecessary complications such as cardiovascular disease, nerve damage (neuropathy), kidney damage (nephropathy), eye damage (retinopathy), and/or foot damage.

The fact that one in two Australians now have a chronic health condition and one in five has two or more3 means it is becoming increasingly important to do whatever is necessary to help people delay or avoid complications from chronic disease. Doing so can assist in avoiding a hospital admission, which has the added benefit of significantly reducing overall cost to the health system, not to mention the positive impact on a person’s quality of life.  

It is often said that ‘people will go to the doctor when they are sick but will visit the pharmacy when they are not feeling well’… just one more reason for Community Pharmacy to expand on the central role it plays in modern health care models, with pharmacists being front and centre in providing services in health promotion, chronic disease prevention, risk assessment and early intervention, ongoing treatment and broader patient management.

Community pharmacists are well placed to apply new and innovative care models, such as providing easy access to simple, fast and reliable point-of-care testing, to improve health outcomes and contribute to a stronger primary healthcare system.

  1. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. General practice management of type 2 diabetes: 2016–18. East Melbourne, Vic: RACGP, 2016.
  2. Diabetes Australia https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/about-diabetes (Accessed 22 May 2017)
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).  Media release ‘1 in 5 Australians affected by multiple chronic diseases’. Canberra, 12 August 2015. 
  4. International Diabetes Federation. IDF Diabetes Atlas, 7th edn. Brussels, Belgium: International Diabetes Federation, 2015. http://www.diabetesatlas.org.

   

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