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Digitisation, healthcare services and collaboration are transforming many pharmacies into community health hubs. We look at four key changes and opportunities to expect in the year ahead.
Pharmacies are changing, and fast. Many are moving towards a health hub model focused on building on their trust and respect as a community health practitioner.
Of course, not every pharmacy will want to follow this path – some are naturally more retail-focused and discount orientated. These are very different ends of the spectrum and, as we look ahead to 2019 and beyond, I think it’s important for all pharmacists to clarify the role they want their pharmacy to play in the future. That way, as major changes start to take effect, they’ll be ready to make the most of them and remain relevant to their local communities.
Pharmacists are highly-educated medicines experts and arguably the most accessible healthcare professionals in the country.
Australia has a network of close to 6,000 pharmacies open for an average of about 60 hours a week, and people can generally walk in and speak to a qualified professional without an appointment. They have the potential to play a much more significant role in primary healthcare and we’re already seeing increasing opportunities to provide more health-based services. In 2019, for example, new regulations will permit many pharmacists to deliver a wider range of vaccinations such as influenza; MMR (mumps, measles and rubella); and DTP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis or whooping cough), depending on state legislation currently being rolled out. There may also be opportunities for pharmacists to play a more active role in other aspects of prevention, such as screening for certain diseases, risk assessments and point-of-care testing.
As long as the pharmacy sector can demonstrate that it’s delivering evidence-based patient outcomes, I’d expect the government to continue increasing funding for these kinds of services.
We’ll see more collaboration in 2019, in a number of ways but particularly as a result of digitisation and the different ways it’s playing out:
Data will continue to play an increasingly important role in the business of running a pharmacy. Many of our pharmacy banking customers, for example, are already doing a great job of collecting and managing financial information. This lets them make more informed decisions and react quickly to things like a slow-moving stock line.
Our large market share and deep understanding of the sector helps us identify performance trends and benchmarks, so we can assess how well individual customers are travelling and provide them with real-time feedback. Where appropriate, we can recommend strategies to help strengthen the financial performance of their business.
Some pharmacies are already well on the way to providing the kind of community health hub outlined by the Pharmacy Guild in its October 2018 report Community Pharmacy 2025 as one that “builds on a core expertise in medicines and facilitates the provision of an array of essential, cost-effective health products and services to an empowered and informed patient and consumer”.
Many of my clients, for example, have always been part of their community, dispensing knowledge and providing a personalised service to people they think of as patients rather than customers. They’re focused on health outcomes and there’s always at least one pharmacist out at the front where they can easily engage with their patients. They’re providing the kind of experience that builds trust and loyalty, and I think this kind of approach may be the way of the future for pharmacists who choose to follow a service-orientated path.
Based in Perth, Michael Gregory is NAB’s Senior Health Banking Manager – Pharmacy.
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