ASX-listed MedAdvisor has been chosen to deliver the technology supporting the first Australian pilot of community pharmacists expanding their scope of practice, including being able to prescribe medicines, as part of efforts to improve access to primary healthcare services.
The company has won the competitive tender to deliver an enhanced version of its PlusOne pharmacy platform for the Queensland Community Pharmacy Scope of Practice pilot. Its software, which will be integrated with national digital health infrastructure, will consist of a patient portal, clinical information system, prescribing functionality, secure communication, and data analytics.
THE LARGER CONTEXT
Allowing pharmacists and other health professionals to expand their scope of practice, including administering a wide range of vaccines and prescribing medicines, has been identified by the Australian Government Productivity Commission and the Queensland government as one way to improve access to healthcare services while alleviating the impact of workforce shortage.
Based on a recent survey conducted by Insightfully in North Queensland, half of the patients with chronic conditions said they have not been regularly seeing their GPs since the recent pandemic. Nearly four in ten of the respondents said they have been waiting too long to get a GP appointment, while more than a quarter said they have shown up instead to an emergency department when they could not be accommodated by a GP.
Meanwhile, the whole of Australia is facing a shortfall of more than 10,600 GPs by the end of the decade, based on a prediction by the Australian Medical Association (AMA).
Taking inspiration from Canada, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand, Queensland first tried expanding the scope of pharmacists’ practice in 2020 with the Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Pharmacy pilot. According to the state government, the trial programme, which became a permanent service last year, has since helped more than 10,000 women access treatment for uncomplicated UTIs through their local pharmacies.
Building on the UTI Pharmacy pilot, the Queensland government, together with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia (PGA) and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, has been working since last year on the Community Pharmacy Scope of Practice pilot, which initially covered North Queensland.
The initiative was not met without resistance. The AMA, AMA Queensland branch, and the Royal Australian College of General Practice had issued a statement condemning the pilot as “reckless” and “dangerous”.
Despite the opposition, preparations for the programme are proceeding to this day. In September this year, Queensland Health Minister Shannon Fentiman announced that the pilot will now cover the entire state. More pharmacies and pharmacists across Queensland are now being recruited to the programme, which will commence providing services by next year 2024 through 2025. So far, nearly 300 registered pharmacists are close to completing the necessary 12-month post-graduate education and training for it.
MedAdvisor’s delivery of its PlusOne pharmacy platform for the statewide trial will be partially funded by the PGA. Their partnership to deliver commitments to government health service initiatives began last year when MedAdvisor acquired the pharmacy software company GuildLink from the PGA.
Other Australian states are now following suit with Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania starting their respective trials of pharmacies prescribing UTI treatment this year.