As cited in The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, in the rural and remote communities in the country, the rate of ear disease is becoming higher, affecting around 1.3 million Australians. One of the factors contributing to this problem is the limited access to health services and providers.
To address this issue, the LISTEN UP (Locally Integrated Screening and Testing Ear aNd aUral Program) intervention was developed. This is a collaborative program between community pharmacists and general practitioners that aims to deliver better patient outcomes.
Currently, the pilot runs in two rural Queensland communities for six months, and the community pharmacists involved in this program are trained to conduct ear examinations on patients with ear complaints using the following:
Video otoscopy to determine the conditions of the eardrum and ear canal
Tympanometry to assess the condition of the middle ear
Usually, the complaints are ear pain and blocked ears. As confirmed by Dr. Selina Taylor, a Remote Pharmacy Academic at James Cook University, many patients have positively described the LISTEN UP pilot service. These comments include how trained and knowledgeable pharmacists are.
Although participating pharmacists are allowed to do ear checkups, they still follow the LISTEN UP protocol where treatment recommendations, such as pain management, only include pharmacy-only products (OTC medications). In case there is a need for medical treatment, pharmacists will refer the patients to a general practitioner via an embedded direct pathway.
LISTEN UP to Reduce Emergency Department Visits
One of the goals of the LISTEN UP pilot is for patients, especially those in remote areas, to receive healthcare services on time. According to Dr. Taylor, this can also reduce potential emergency department visits.
In one study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, regarding the application of the LISTEN UP pilot model, it was reported that one patient who was recommended with no treatment in a participating pharmacy, still attended an emergency department. Eventually, at the hospital, no treatment was recommended as well.
Together with the Distribution Priority Area and the National Rural Generalist Pathway, this ear health intervention can lower the number of hospital admissions and help in coping with the healthcare workforce shortage.
Tinnitus: Affecting the Quality of Life
Tinnitus, also known as the ringing of the ears, is a common ear complaint. However, this can affect the quality of life. As cited in the Retail Pharmacy, tinnitus affects 2 out of 3 Australians. Moreover, the quality of life of 7% of those who are suffering from this condition is severely affected.
Although tinnitus might be a chronic condition for some patients, it is still not considered a disease. Instead, it might be a symptom of some auditory problems in the following:
The inner, middle, and outer ear
The acoustic nerve connecting the inner ear to the brain
The brain parts that process sound
Aside from ear and sinus infections, there are also other health conditions where tinnitus might just be another manifestation. Some of these include noise-induced hearing loss, heart or blood vessels disorders, Ménière’s disease, brain tumours, hormonal changes in women, and thyroid abnormalities.
Sometimes, tinnitus is caused by the use of certain medications like NSAIDs, ACE inhibitors, and loop diuretics.
Fortunately, patients who are experiencing tinnitus can consider the tympanometry diagnostic test offered by the participating pharmacies under the LISTEN UP pilot program.
For community pharmacists, this pilot program is a stepping stone to help them work towards their full scope of practice. It can also improve interprofessional skills, as these pharmacists are working with GPs, specialist medical officers, and others in rural communities.
If you are looking for the best rural pharmacy jobs related to ear health or placements that can help you enhance your interprofessional leadership skills, you can consider Raven’s Recruitment.
Since 1987, Raven's Recruitment has been specialising in Pharmacist recruitment, so we have expert knowledge in the space. If you are looking for an exciting opportunity to work as a locum pharmacist or want a permanent job, then look no further - get in touch with our Recruitment Consultants today.