In a recent edition of Forefront (published by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia) a news item regarding some new market research delivered by ORIMA Research for the PGA “shows that patients want pharmacy-led services delivered in-home and more health services delivered in pharmacies”.
This information evidently forms part of a PGA strategic plan titled CP2025.
We have to admit that at i2P we were astonished that the PGA actually paid for this information because it has been common knowledge for at least 40 years, dating from 1978 when a precursor entity to i2P built the first pharmacy patient consulting rooms and identified a pharmacist consultation program based on health literacy and specialty clinics, that pharmacy patients identified as having value.
And to the extent that a twelve month pilot study generated a fee revenue stream not part of the PBS or other prescription profit centres, thus creating the first paid specialist information pharmacists based in a community pharmacy.
Another project that was developed over the following decade from the above events was titled Pharmacy in the Home.
This was based on the known fact that the senior demographic of 65+ was expanding at a rate that would peak at around 30 percent of total population over time.
It has currently reached a point roughly half-way to the expected peak.
It was a “no-brainer” to understand that this would represent a potential and expanding market for pharmacy because it was a market segment characterised by chronic illness and lesser patient mobility.
These known and obvious facts translated into service thoughts that involved mobility and delivery to the home rather than by a patient visiting a pharmacy.
That further translated into thoughts of technology assistance, informational and service support web sites as components of mobile services and clinical education for pharmacists as well as the creation of a new job titled clinical assistant.
Pilot studies, ideas and know-how have been continuously delivered by i2P in article format since the inception of this thought-leader publication in 2000.
We have also expressed frustration involving pharmacy leadership groups delivering slow or non-performance direction, which persists to the current day.
If it has taken 40 years for the PGA to receive paid information that has been freely available for anyone who was not asleep at the wheel, you would have to ask why?
It adds insult to injury in incorporating this information in a program titled CP2025 which infers that it will be acted upon in 2025 when it should have been ready to roll out in the year 2000 at the latest.
Given that there is potential for global pharmacy to intrude into the Australian pharmacy market in 2022 (also identified through i2P research), why are we waiting until 2025 to get the ball rolling into a more urgent strategic delivery?
The culture of pharmacy leadership has been characterised by lacklustre skills, lack of creativity and innovation, self interest and conflict of interest.
Only a vocal distraction delivered by the medical profession and styled as a “turf war” has stimulated some form of defensive response from some pharmacy leaders that might illustrate some leadership potential.
Those who have responded need to be supported for they represent the very few in numbers, capable of changing and developing pharmacy culture to progress beyond mere survival.
Urgency to develop pharmacy programs with a larger component of clinical content, has not matched community expectation.
However, while there is a level of disappointment in community pharmacy by health consumers, loyalty levels have remained consistently high because service quality has been maintained to a reasonably high level.
Care delivery has gradually declined and this has resulted in health consumers accessing different offerings from pharmacies (not being content with “their pharmacy” as a sole source), and services from natural and alternate health practitioners have also expanded as pharmacy care has declined.
Some pharmacies have experimented with providing some level of new clinical services and they are to be applauded for their efforts.
What has been lacking is the recognition that clinical services, while being a valid component of community pharmacy core business, has to be developed differently to the other core components of dispensing and retailing.
Business formats similar to those found in the medical profession need to be adapted for pharmacist clinical activity.
Thus the best direction for community pharmacy is to foster self-contained pharmacist service providers to rent pharmacy space with a rental based on a revenue sharing system between the pharmacy and the clinical services provider business entity.
Until this infrastructure appears, the CP2025 concept is likely to become CP2035 or some higher figure.
The frustration with an “asleep at the wheel” pharmacy leadership deepens not only with individual pharmacists, but also with existing and potential pharmacy consumers.
The fact that these consumers are commonly referred to (by pharmacists at all levels) as “customers” means that community pharmacy will continue to remain retail focussed.
Patients need to be identified and treated as patients because they have different requirements to customers.
They can both co-exist within the same pharmacy but require policy and marketing differentiation, to communicate the appropriate messages pertaining to each category.
It’s time for our leaders to wake up and do what is best for the entire profession, not just look after one aspect that may provide individual political advantage or a tool for disruption.
Scotland’s community pharmacy system has already recognised the need for a “Pharmacy-in-the-Home” program and has come up with an equivalent titled “Pharmacy Anywhere”.
So there is no excuse for Australian pharmacy leaders – they have Scotland’s blueprint to adapt to their own version if they simply “just do it!”