Strategic report on future of community pharmacy

Forefront

Date: 27 June 2018

Community pharmacies of the future will have a greater focus on services for the safe administration and management of medicines as they become more complex and are customised for patients, a major research project undertaken by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia has concluded.

This medication management will be underpinned by a workforce trained and skilled in the delivery of these services and in providing value to patients and to the community pharmacy sector itself.

But the research also warns that failure to prepare for the changes and adapt the model of community pharmacy to the new environment could result in loss of relevance and revenue, and an increased trend towards deregulation of the sector.

The Pharmacy Guild initiated the research project, Community Pharmacy 2025 (CP2025), to determine what Australian community pharmacies will look like in 2025 and beyond. The findings of the project have been made available to Guild members.

The Guild utilised the services of Research provider ORIMA Research and advisory firm Pottinger to provide a vision for a framework for a sustainable and viable community pharmacy sector into 2025 and beyond.

The CP2025 report has found management of medicines as they increase in complexity and become customised for patients will assume an increasingly important role for pharmacies. Coupled with this, health literacy for patients will become a core specialty for community pharmacies.

The report also suggests there will be a move to pharmacies becoming centralised health hubs.

“Understanding of other healthcare providers’ practices through a central location will allow better management of, and care for, patients by pharmacists. Complex medicines (eg immunotherapy) are dangerous without a patient’s health history, current medications, and, as DNA technology advances, genetic makeup. Pharmacy can become the central hub where all of this data is utilised in any patient’s medicines regime,” the report says.

The foundation of this evolution to a new model of community pharmacy will be a skilled and highly trained workforce. This needs to start at the student level with the report suggesting the profession “assist in building a standardised tertiary curriculum that ensures critical understanding of the required depth of knowledge at the frontier of current and future pharmacy practice. [It should] impart students with the knowledge and skills to demonstrate autonomy, authoritative judgement, adaptability and responsibility as an expert and leading practitioner.”

There also needs to be a broadening of “the skills of the workforce to provide health advice and services focusing on the increasing complexity of medicines and health conditions.” Staff need to be trained on new retail practices related to new products and channels.”

The research identified nine pathways that represent the best opportunities for community pharmacies to make the most of the changing operating environment.

These are:

  • Online which involves the integration of e-health services and processes within the core pharmacy business model and development of online retailing, fulfilment and connectivity for medicines, front-of-shop products and health services.
  • Health services which focuses on the provision of health-related services in the pharmacy, including medicines advice, management and safety protocols, health-related advice, preventative health, disease screening and detection and chronic disease management.
  • Community/health hub to provide services or space for third parties to become a community/health hub, focusing on patient-centred care linked with other professionals.
  • Business operations including modifying back-office operations to make more efficient use of assets, supply chain resources, admin processes and people.
  • Automation through increased use of technology such as automated dispensing/packaging to reduce cost and improve service.
  • New products which will include extending product ranges to leverage physical distribution networks.
  • Leverage brand by utilising Gold Cross or own-brand products and services to increase margin and/or build brand presence.
  • In-home services such as medicines supply and management, and associated services to customers in their homes.
  • Coordination, accreditation and partnerships with other health-related services and Government.

For the community pharmacy sector, the Guild has identified the first four of these pathways as representing the highest priorities.

Meanwhile, the CP2025 report suggests some steps towards securing the future can be taken immediately and these include the establishment of pharmacies as health hubs which can address unmet community health needs and also focus on third-party service providers. For the pharmacy this will mean increased foot traffic while serving their communities.

The report also suggests pharmacies should look to selling online and taking the pharmacy into the home of its customers. Online activity should start with front-of-shop products and products that link to health initiatives and promotions.

Pharmacies should also start providing health-related services, starting small to explore demand and also ensuring they have a viable price point.

The Guild is developing action plans to enable pharmacies to take forward the growth pathways and these will be released at the Pharmacy Connect conference in Sydney in September

For some pharmacies the necessary changes may come easily; for others it will be more challenging. But the changes must be made and the Guild will be supporting its members throughout the transition and into 2025 and beyond.

Contact: David Quilty

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Page last updated 30 August 2018