Get ready for more changes and opportunities as community pharmacists boost healthcare services and hit the fast-track to the primary healthcare frontline.
- Strong momentum for scope of practice in community pharmacies
- Key implications for 60-day dispensing of prescription medicines
- Data shows spend in pharmacies is stable
- Instore shopping is at an all-time high
- Digitisation is driving change as pharmacists manage cyber risk
- What to expect from the 8CPA
The role of pharmacists in primary healthcare has grown significantly in recent years and looks likely to grow even bigger with the advent of the Eighth Community Pharmacy Agreement (8CPA) in March.
For Australia to have a sustainable health system “we need all health professionals to practise at their full and top of scope,” says Dr Fei Sim, National President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) in a new Westpac report exploring the dynamic trends and reforms shaping the future of pharmacy.
Community pharmacies: Scoping the change captures the latest developments and ever-rising importance of community pharmacies for Australians.
Drawing on insights from industry leaders, and the activity of more than 12 million Westpac Group cardholders from July 2019 to September 2023, the report reveals the ways patient behaviours and consumer spending habits are shifting, and how pharmacies are bringing on a new era of agility and innovation to enhance primary care by offering other health services.
“Change is not coming, because it’s already here,” says Dr Sim. “The policy changes affecting pharmacies in 2023 alone are equivalent in impact to the changes we’ve seen over the past 12 years.”
Counting the changes for pharmacies, now and next
Headline industry shifts include new scope of practice regimes that kicked off with a pioneering pilot for pharmacists treating urinary tract infections (UTIs) in North Queensland, before going state-wide.
While community pharmacies in NSW and across Victoria are now also providing primary care services across a range of common conditions and prescribing pharmaceuticals such as the oral contraceptive pill and asthma medication.
2023 saw historic reforms to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), and the 1 September introduction of 60-day dispensing for some PBS medicines, delivering greater convenience and lower costs to consumers and government.
The report covers anticipated highs and lows from so many changes, with pharmacy revenue potentially being impacted by 60-day dispensing, an area that many are looking to the upcoming five-year 8CPA to alleviate.
The PSA and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia will be signatories to the new agreement along with an extended range of stakeholders including patient groups, medicine wholesalers and distributors, and others.
Another historic and timely shift, coinciding with Australia's cost-of-living squeeze, was the first-ever drop in the cost of general prescription medicines under the PBS, with the co-payment for non-concession cardholders plunging from $42.50 to $30.
Westpac data reveals how the nation’s higher cost of living impacted consumer spending in pharmacies, which grew only 3.15 per cent against an inflation figure of 5.4 per cent in the 12 months to September 2023, while transaction volumes in pharmacies remained stable.
Emerging opportunities for growth
Innovation in community pharmacies is moving rapidly due to a strong focus on digital transformation to deliver benefits to patients and drive efficiencies in the past few years.
Some 167 million electronic prescriptions now have been issued by more than 79,000 health care providers, and uptake looks set to power up, with recent Federal Budget increases for further investment in e-prescriptions, related infrastructure and services.
However, Australian pharmacy customers continue to buck the online shopping trend by doing most of their spending instore – and Westpac analysts believe this may reflect how the increasing number of professional services on offer in pharmacies is growing foot-traffic.
The report also shows pharmacies are reaching for more digital options.
“Outside of electronic prescriptions, there’s a push to drive efficiencies and productivity through technology like patient management systems and automating processes where possible,” reports Westpac’s Kai Mehta, National Head of Healthcare, Business Bank.
Investment in cyber security to protect health records and ensure patient safety is also high on their lists.
All eyes on the future of pharmacy
With Australians relying more than ever on community pharmacies as the first port of call for healthcare advice and primary care, eyes are on the further catalysts for innovation expected to come from 8CPA, says Mehta, and Westpac is ready to help pharmacies seize the next opportunities for change.
Speak to a Westpac Specialist Healthcare Banker today to learn more about how we can support you and your business.