PBS is almost a lost cause.
The amount of time that is invested in this product compared to the return on invested capital, is now not viable.
This will not improve as health minister, Sussan Ley, has stated she is “not interested in pharmacists’ pay packets, only lower costs for consumers”.
A directional change is required by the PGA and the rest of pharmacy, because pharmacy stability is now threatened and revenues flowing into the profession must be more equitably divided.
Individual pharmacists not owning pharmacies must strive for provider status, and productive alliances must form up in earnest, because we are all now in survival mode.
As part of a directional change there is a need to acknowledge the Intergenerational report and the ageing of the population accompanied by chronic disease.
Chronic disease and cost of care is expected to drive use of home-health technology and self care.
This is a confronting direction (and opportunity) and one which pharmacy needs to address.
Consumers utilising home-health technologies will increase from 14.3 million worldwide in 2014 to 78.5 million by 2020, according to a new report from Tractica.
Tractica market intelligence anticipates that medical monitoring, diagnosis, and treatment will be the largest application market during that timeframe, and will drive the deployment of a wide variety of connected health devices and software applications.
Other key segments of this market are remote consultations, eldercare and health-and-wellness.
This represents a confluence of pharmacist interests that will benefit pharmacies in the sale, servicing and rental of technologies.
Remote consultations will be of interest to clinical service pharmacists working as pharmacy employees or as freelancers.
Health and wellness will attract a younger demographic that may convert to first-time pharmacy customers.
Some of these services may be able to be deployed through nursing homes and acute care hospitals.
With tablet devices it would be possible to interview a patient in bed or in some other prepared setting – in a nursing home or a hospital.
Self care is a wide open market with pharmacists being acknowledged as the drivers of this type of care.
Connectivity with wearable devices will expand the market and if a pharmacist is one of the recipients of information from a patient-wearer, there is an immediate connection, and recommendations in the form of product or advice will simply flow.
With the PBS product life cycle endpoint having arrived, self care becomes a valid replacement for lost PBS income.
Patients requiring referrals to other health care practitioners will access this service faster and more efficiently.
Pharmacy in the home (as a marketable healthcare division) becomes more feasible because it can be managed by competent pharmacy assistants equipped with a tablet computer.
Mobile Internet ensures that a pharmacist can be based in a pharmacy (or any suitable office location) and reach anyone in need remotely.
And all accompanied with the personal touch of a pharmacy assistant – just as it would happen in the pharmacy itself.
Pharmacy in the Home requires a logistics system infrastructure populated with competent sales staff, mobile smartphones, notepads with quick pharmacist connection, catalogues and brochures, delivery charge price list and information systems that include patient profile access.
It innovates what already exists in pharmacy rather than inventing something totally new.
Home-health technologies are emerging as a distinct segment within the larger mobile and digital health market.
The ability to remotely monitor patients with chronic conditions, utilise technology for improved eldercare, and conduct virtual consultations (eVisits) is being seen as a way to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the overall healthcare system, as well as to improve patient outcomes.
Meanwhile, home health devices and applications are leveraging the ubiquity of residential broadband networking and smartphones to help consumers manage health and wellness on an ongoing basis.
“Key factors driving interest in home healthcare technologies include rising healthcare costs, aging populations and a rise in the number of people living with chronic diseases,” said Tractica principal analyst Charul Vyas. “However, significant challenges remain for the industry to solve, including regulatory issues, data security and privacy and technology, interoperability and integration issues.”
Australian pharmacy has been slow to adapt to a wellness paradigm, particularly in providing services to the exercise and fitness industry.
The same connected technologies are used to assist outcomes and monitor performance in the younger demographic involved in these activities.
People in this category are generally of younger age than the demographic usually serviced by pharmacies (seniors through PBS).
The technology and health advice that could accompany this wellness/fitness category, could provide a customer/patient stream that may have never entered a pharmacy previously.
This is another opportunity that should be seized as a replacement for PBS losses.
Special clinics can be constructed for fitness and sports people, a baby clinic for the women within that group, and any specialised clinic for a lifestyle complaint (asthma, cardio etc), will stake pharmacy’s claim to be a major player in delivering primary health care.
This is the direction that all of pharmacy should be leaning towards, leaving the depression of PBS behind.
Being freed from the government controls that force pharmacists to work for a pittance is not acceptable and pharmacists must privatise their offerings as much as they morally can.
The great thing about changing direction is that it will provide a low cost patient-centred service, and at the same time, provide a pharmacy based “home” that patients can access conveniently.
And it will reduce health care costs overall – better than any government “top down” system.
It’s past time to get moving!