We take a look at what could be a major change coming to Medicare and a great program recently run for Pharmacist interns.
Two different and yet related news happened recently – a brilliant GP Pharmacy intern program run in 2022 and a press conference about Medicare that ushers in one of the biggest changes to the healthcare system since Medicare was first introduced.
Butler hints at major Medicare changes
Federal Health Minister Mark Butler made healthcare news in the last week of January with talk of potentially major changes to the Medicare system that might help with the strain healthcare professionals have been talking about for years alongside a health system Butler believed was in its worse shape in forty years.
Referring to the idea of a “wraparound model”, Butler called out excessive red-tape and “turf wars” that limited nurses, pharmacists and other allied health professionals from being part of the solution to help ease burdens in the healthcare system.
At the January 23, 2023, press conference in Canberra, Butler advocated for a more “liberated” ability for a range of healthcare professionals to step in and contribute to patient care, saying, “It doesn’t make sense not to have every single one of our healthcare professionals working to the top of their scope of practice, whether that’s doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, pharmacists, and others.”
The news was met with some pushback from industry bodies, such as the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), whose president Nicole Higgins went as far to say that such a proposal could “make matters worse”, and who also believed Butler’s characterisation of there being turf wars as being incorrect.
However, other peak healthcare bodies welcomed the announcement, pointing to the shortage of GPs that was coming and the need to address this via creative strategies such as what Butler was alluding to.
Butler will make decisions about changes to Medicare based on recommendations of the Strengthening Medicare federal taskforce – which comprises the RACGP, allied health and nursing associations, and academics – which will be finalised well in advance of the Federal budget in May.
Asked by a journalist at the press conference whether a “blended” model was already a done deal, Butler responded, “… the idea of moving from a purely fee-for-service model that has largely defined Medicare over the last 40 years to something that’s more blended, that has more wraparound funding, particularly for older patients and patients with complex chronic disease, is not a new idea. This has been discussed for many years, we had pilots on it when we were last in government, particularly in the area of diabetes.”
Intern pharmacists show collaboration works
If the health minister wants recent evidence that the blended wraparound model has legs, he might look no further than a program run in 2022 involving intern pharmacists.
The program aimed to offer pharmacy interns exposure to different clinical settings to broaden both their knowledge and networks, giving them critical insight into the role of the GP Pharmacist, notably the 2022 PSA Early Career Pharmacist of the Year, Deborah Hawthorne MPS, who is the GP Pharmacist at South Wangaratta Medical Clinic.
The concept of the GP pharmacistis fairly new. Working directly with GPs and other health professionals to support the quality use of medicine, GP pharmacists perform a range of duties, including:
Undertaking medication reconciliations and reviews
Optimising medication regimens
Managing medication use and safety
Supporting transitions of care
Reviewing and reporting on adverse reactions
Undertaking therapeutic drug monitoring
Educating GPs, staff and patients on medication-related issues
Undertaking clinical prescribing reviewing
The intern program offered pharmacy interns wonderful insight into the day-to-day life of the working GP pharmacist and how important their role is, with all four interns taking much from their time with Hawthorne.
For Laura Keppel, it was a “vital networking opportunity” and the chance to realise that GP pharmacists can be another referral point for discharged patients. Patrick Devlin saw the benefits of transitions of care, while also gaining insight into how Hawthorne identifies patients in need of a Home Medicines Review (HMR).
Chronic disease management was the key learning that Sean Clark took from his internship, while Stephanie Fantela could see the benefits of improving the maintenance of patient records, which GP pharmacists could help with by obtaining patient histories.
All in all, a successful program with great outcomes!
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