The Integral Role of Community Pharmacy in Consumer Health Management
Community Pharmacy has been recognized by all governments as playing an integral role in helping people manage their chronic conditions while also easing the burden on the health care system. Educating patients on how to manage their condition, prevent disease and maintain their physical and mental wellbeing can lead to a range of improvements including people engaged in their health regimes, and positive health outcomes.
Many Community Pharmacists have introduced a range of measures to enable them to deliver a broad range of health services that focus on early intervention and continuing care. In-store health services can include:
- Diabetes screening
- Diabetes management
- Cardiovascular disease risk assessment
- Medication management
- Lifestyle audits/reviews
To illustrate, facilitating highly accurate point-of-care testing for haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), is one example where Community Pharmacy is taking the lead in delivering patient-focused, convenient, quality health services that support improved access to diabetes screening and management.
“Regular health checks, like the HbA1c check are an essential part of ongoing diabetes care. It is really important that people don’t stop getting these checks, and that they keep up with other aspects of their diabetes management during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Diabetes doesn’t stop during COVID-19. We are concerned that if people don’t have their pathology checks or checks for their vision, foot problems, kidney function or other health checks, then serious problems could develop unnoticed. If issues are detected early, then health outcomes are usually much better.” CEO Diabetes Australia, Professor Greg Johnson
The AfinionTM Analyzer from Abbott makes this process fast, simple and highly accurate. With tests available for HbA1c, a full lipid panel (including cholesterol, triglyceride, HDL cholesterol), albumin creatinine ratio for kidney health and c-reactive protein for inflammation and infection, the delivers comprehensive results that are available in just a few minutes from a small fingerstick or urine sample.
With regular HbA1c testing, an accurate assessment of blood glucose over the longer term can be made, averaging out the levels using 10-12 week intervals. Testing at least every 3-6 months is recommended for those living with diabetes.
According to a recent WHO survey, disruption in treatment and prevention services for non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease have suffered tremendously since the COVID-19 pandemic began. This disruption leaves many of those living with these conditions even more vulnerable and at risk of serious COVID-19 related illness, and death.
Health complications from diabetes can include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Nerve damage (neuropathy)
- Kidney damage (nephropathy)
- Eye damage (retinopathy)
- Foot damage
One in two Australians now have a chronic health condition and almost a quarter have two or more, making it increasingly important for those people to understand how to delay or avoid further complications triggered by a chronic disease, which often result in hospital admission and a reduced quality of life.
It is often said that ‘people will go to the doctor when they are sick but will visit the pharmacy when they are not feeling well’… the opportunity is for Community Pharmacy to expand upon the pivotal role it plays. Pharmacists provide a range of health services such as health promotion, chronic disease prevention information, risk assessment and early intervention, ongoing treatment and broader patient management.
Innovative health care models, such as providing easy access to simple, fast and reliable point-of-care testing provide an enhanced patient experience and improved health outcomes, contributing to a stronger primary healthcare system.