Westpac’s latest report on the pharmacy industry highlights the increasing importance of community pharmacists in providing primary healthcare services to Australians across the country.
The report draws on the transaction activity of more than 12 million Westpac Group cardholders as well as insights from industry leaders and pharmacy owners. It found pharmacies are expanding their range of services, while also offering more digital prescriptions and navigating a range of reforms.
“Change is not coming, it’s already here,” says Dr Fei Sim, National President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.
One example is a recent trial in New South Wales, where around 3,000 women received faster and easier access to Urinary Tract Infection treatment via their community pharmacy.
The UTI Pharmacy Pilot program has been introduced in more than 1,000 pharmacies across NSW this year and a 12-month statewide pilot was also launched in Victoria in October 2023.
“This is a step in the right direction as it fulfils the core purpose of serving the needs and demands of the public more broadly,” says Sim.
Pharmacies are also reporting an increase of in-store shopping and the delivery of electronic prescriptions.
According to Westpac spending data, the proportion of in-store shopping at community pharmacies compared to e-commerce has increased by 20 percentage points over the past four years to an all-time high of 81.6 per cent as of September 2023, while prescribers have issued 167 million e-prescriptions since 2020.
Meanwhile, more funding for community pharmacists could be on the horizon with ongoing negotiations for an eighth Community Pharmacy Agreement (8CPA).
The 8CPA, due to commence in March 2024, is a five-year agreement that governs how pharmacies supply medicines listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Kaizaad Mehta, National Head of Healthcare and Industry Specialisation, Westpac Business Bank said the 8CPA will likely see further expansion of services to be delivered through community pharmacies.
“It will also be an opportunity to realign pharmacy remuneration to ensure that the industry is successful, profitable and effective.”
Mehta said Westpac was keen to support community pharmacies looking to seize these growth opportunities.
“I'm optimistic that we're going to see a well-balanced 8CPA, which will provide opportunities for operators to continue to grow,” says Mehta.