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Embedded pharmacists key to quality medication use

Pharmacist aged care

A recent study conducted by Monash University sheds light on the crucial role of on-site pharmacists in the Australian aged care system.

The study indicates that when pharmacists are integrated within the interprofessional aged care team, they are better equipped to support both residents and the healthcare system in improving the quality of medication use.

In 2022, the Australian Government responded to recommendations from the 2019 Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety by announcing a national rollout of embedded on-site pharmacists in all Government-funded Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACFs).

This significant initiative builds upon the findings of national and international studies. While the specifics of this innovative model are yet to be finalised, it is expected that the phased implementation will commence in 2024.

The research, conducted by the Center for Medicine Use and Safety (CMUS) at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) and published in the Australasian Journal on Ageing, aims to explore the roles of early adopters of Australia’s embedded on-site pharmacist model in enhancing the quality of medication use in RACFs.

Dr Amanda Cross, a pharmacist and Research Fellow at CMUS and the lead author of the study, conducted interviews with 15 pharmacists across Australia who were early adopters of the embedded on-site aged care pharmacist model.

“It was evident from the early adopters of this model that being embedded and onsite was important for being able to be an advocate for the resident, build enhanced relationships with the interdisciplinary team, and drive system-level improvements in medication management,” Dr Cross said.

The study highlighted the multifaceted roles of these pharmacists, encompassing both resident-level responsibilities, such as actively contributing to outcome-focused resident-centred care and system-level responsibilities, including leading clinical governance and quality improvement processes. The system-level roles align with those of a “knowledge broker,” an individual who facilitates the translation of evidence and guidelines into local practice.

According to Dr Cross, “The role of a system-level knowledge broker can serve as a guiding framework for the new aged care pharmacist model. Pharmacists serving as knowledge brokers can play a pivotal role in enhancing policies and processes, connecting key stakeholders, and building the capacity of individuals and aged care provider organizations to ensure the quality use of medications.”

Dr. Cross and her colleagues at CMUS are currently engaged in two Medical Research Future Fund projects that delve further into the role of embedded on-site pharmacists acting as knowledge brokers in residential aged care.

These projects also involve the implementation of new CMUS-led Australian Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Appropriate Use of Psychotropic Medications in People Living with Dementia and in Residential Aged Care.

CMUS Director Professor Simon Bell underscored the significance of the study by stating that it offers valuable insights into the new roles for pharmacists at the resident and system levels, along with the competencies required to excel in these roles.

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