General Practice Pharmacists boost chronic disease care and reduce costs

General Practice Pharmacists boost chronic disease care and reduce costs

‘General practice pharmacists are a proven asset in managing chronic diseases in the community while keeping costs and hospital admissions down’, says Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven.

‘They have proven to be effective and well-accepted by patients and GPs in countries such as the UK, the USA, and New Zealand. But, as shown in an Issues Brief published today by our Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research, the concept has yet to gain a solid foothold here in Australia.’

The Issues Brief, Integration of general practice pharmacists into primary healthcare settings for chronic disease management, was written by final year James Cook University medical student Caitlin Shaw as part of a Jeff Cheverton Memorial Scholarship undertaken at the Deeble Institute.

‘Almost one in every two Australians has a chronic medical condition, and 87% of those are over the age of 65. And as patients become older their medical needs become more complex and they often require more medications.

‘General practice pharmacists (GPPs) are pharmacists integrated into a primary care team, usually based at a General Practice. They undertake medication reviews, deliver medical management services and promote medication safety initiatives. They can inform GPs about potential medication-related problems and improve health literacy to educate and empower patients to employ effective medication self-management.

‘There is a proven need for such expertise. For example, for patients with multiple chronic conditions, medication regimes can be unduly confusing, complex and costly. Up to 50% of these patients then don’t take their medications as required and this has a direct impact on health outcomes.

‘Further, medication-related problems cause 20–30% of hospitalisations for people over 65.

‘By co-locating pharmacists within general practice they can access the practice’s administrative services and patient records and work closely and collaboratively with GPs and other healthcare team professionals using mechanisms such as case conferences.

‘There are no health system policy or funding arrangements to support the integrated GPP model of care in Australia— although several Primary Health Networks around Australia have either conducted or are conducting pilot programs, with encouraging results’, Ms Verhoeven said.

‘Hurdles so far include confusion about the role of GPPs, with doctors as well as patients perceiving pharmacists as solely dispensers of medication while being unaware of their other clinical skills.

‘There is also the issue of pharmacist prescribing—permitted in the US, the UK, Canada and New Zealand, but not here in Australia, where it has met fierce resistance from doctor organisations in particular.

‘There are several ways forward suggested in the Issues Brief, including team care training for pharmacists, research programs, and GP-based data collections to track effectiveness.’


Integration of general practice pharmacists into primary healthcare settings for chronic disease management is available here.

More information on the Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research is available here.

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) is the independent peak membership body and advocate for the Australian healthcare system and national voice for universally accessible, high quality health care in Australia.

Media enquiries: Kylie Woolcock, Chief Executive, AHHA, 0410 625 830, [email protected] 

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