In a recent media release by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, titled "Pharmacists again top-rated with patients," it was revealed that community pharmacists have once again earned the highest rating from patients compared to doctors or dentists. This information is based on the findings of the Australian Healthcare Index survey, conducted in March 2023 by healthengine and the Australian Patients Association. The survey employed the Net Promoter Score (NPS) to gauge customer satisfaction, engagement, and advocacy.
Why Pharmacists Are Leading the Way
The survey results shed light on why pharmacists are consistently among the most trusted and respected healthcare professionals across Australia. According to Professor Trent Twomey, the National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, pharmacists possess the skills, accessibility, and trustworthiness that patients value immensely. In his words, "This is what community pharmacy is all about – being there for our patients and providing a reliable, accessible, and trusted health service."
The high NPS score for pharmacists underscores the critical role they play in the healthcare ecosystem. Their accessibility in local communities, combined with their expertise in medications and patient care, makes them a go-to resource for many Australians.
Challenges in Medication Access
Despite the positive feedback for pharmacists, the survey also highlighted a concerning issue: the cost of prescription medicines. The data indicated that, in the previous six months, 27 percent of respondents had gone without prescription medicines due to their cost. This alarming statistic suggests that the affordability of healthcare remains a significant concern for many Australians.
To address this issue, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia has been advocating for a reduction in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) general co-payment. While the co-payment was reduced from $42.50 to $30 on January 1, 2023, the survey showed that it had not made a difference for 32 percent of respondents. To ensure universal and affordable access to medicines, the Guild is pushing for a further reduction of the co-payment to $19.
Professor Twomey emphasised the importance of this reduction, stating, "The reduction to $30 was a first step, and we now have to take the next logical and necessary step to cutting it to $19."
Expanding Pharmacist Roles
Another intriguing finding from the survey was the strong support for pharmacists to take on more responsibilities, such as diagnosing and prescribing, provided they undergo additional training. Approximately 56 percent of respondents expressed support for pharmacists having an expanded role in healthcare.
Professor Twomey sees this as a positive indication of patient support for the Guild's advocacy to enable pharmacists to work to their full scope of practice. He believes that pharmacists' skills, accessibility, and trustworthiness position them well to contribute more significantly to patient care.
In conclusion, the Australian Healthcare Index survey has reaffirmed the trust and confidence that patients place in community pharmacists. It has also highlighted critical issues related to medication affordability and the potential for pharmacists to play a more significant role in healthcare. As discussions and advocacy efforts continue, it's clear that pharmacists will remain at the forefront of patient-centred care in Australia.
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