Data-based insights reveal community pharmacists’ increasingly vital role in Australians’ lives.
- An upward trend in overall consumer spending holds strong
- 64% of Pharmacy Guild members have changed their business model or practices fundamentally, very or quite substantially in the last 3–5 years, reflecting the reforms and changing dynamics across the sector
- People are visiting their local pharmacy on average 18 times a year, in search of products and, increasingly, services
- 70% of patients asked their local pharmacist for healthcare advice at least once over the past 12 months
- 114 million electronic prescriptions issued since May 2020
Community pharmacies across Australia are rapidly transforming as their scope of practice continues to expand, according to the latest insights released by Westpac and The Pharmacy Guild of Australia.
Data shows 64% of Pharmacy Guild members have adapted their business models or practices fundamentally, very or quite substantially in the last 3–5 years due to shifting dynamics across the sector, driven by consumer demand and enabled by a raft of recent reforms and recommendations.
Insights from the latest Westpac and Pharmacy Guild of Australia document, ‘Pharmacies on the healthcare frontline’, explain how the vital role of community pharmacies in the lives of Australians is gaining pace.
While COVID-19 driven spikes in pharmacy sales may have subsided, an upward trend in overall spending remains strong, with total overall spending in pharmacies leaping from $92.5 million in 2019 to $123.7 million in January 2023.
Guild President Trent Twomey says people are visiting their local pharmacy on average 18 times a year, looking for products and, increasingly, services – and the data shows their clear preference for shopping and seeking advice in person, rather than online.
Investing in reform
As the community’s first port of call for primary healthcare needs, pharmacists are stepping and skilling up to meet rising expectations, with 70% of patients asking their local pharmacist for healthcare advice at least once over the past 12 months.
Growing numbers are also presenting for vaccinations, with six new vaccinations added to the list of those that can be administered by community pharmacists in the past 12 months.
Other health services are also on the rise following the introduction of the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement (7CPA) in mid-2020, which saw an investment of $1.2 billion in professional services. Services such as Diabetes MedsCheck delivered in community pharmacies increased by 45.4% from January 2021 to January 2023.
“The quantity of professional services funded through the 7CPA is continuing to increase, with growth of 24% in occasions of service in the last two years, and we’re seeing more community pharmacies participating in the delivery,” says Kaizaad Mehta, National Head of Health at Westpac.
Improving accessibility and affordability
Insights also reveal that community pharmacies are not immune to the widespread talent crunch. They are actively competing with hospitals to staff dispensaries and deliver services, and investing significantly in new technologies to power up digital health initiatives and bring on efficiencies.
The standout is the embrace of e-prescriptions, with some 114 million issued since May 2020 and 85% of pharmacies now having access to the Active Script List.
And demand in dispensaries is shifting, coinciding with the reduction in Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme co-payments from $42.50 to $30 on 1 January 2023 making medicines more accessible. The Guild’s Twomey predicts a future surge in demand for biologics as patents expire for molecules used in biological medicines.
The full impact of the cuts in co-payments will be analysed and released by Westpac and The Pharmacy Guild of Australia later in 2023.