Engagement the key to award-winning pharmacy program

2016 Innovative Pharmacist of the Year Dr Alison Roberts with UTS Vice-Chancellor Prof Attila Brungs (left) and AstraZeneca Senior Medical Director Dr Alan Paul. Photo: Paul Santelmann

2016 Innovative Pharmacist of the Year Dr Alison Roberts with UTS Vice-Chancellor Prof Attila Brungs (left) and AstraZeneca Senior Medical Director Dr Alan Paul. Photo: Paul Santelmann

In summary: 
  • A scheme to develop targeted health services in local pharmacies has been recognised with the UTS Innovative Pharmacist of the Year Award
  • The award, which recognises innovation in industry, professional and community pharmacy initiatives, was announced at a dinner hosted by the UTS Graduate School of Health

Dr Alison Roberts of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) has won the AstraZeneca 2016 UTS Innovative Pharmacist of the Year Award for a new initiative that supports pharmacies to better engage with consumers.

The award, which recognises innovation in industry, professional and community pharmacy initiatives, was announced at a dinner hosted by the UTS Graduate School of Health last night.

As the PSA’s Executive Director of Policy, Advocacy and Innovation, Dr Roberts led the creation of the Health Destination Pharmacy program, an evidence-based change initiative that helps pharmacies transition to a professional services business model.

“We’ve got a sector that’s heavily reliant on PBS and volume-based remuneration, which we know is declining. What we want to see is a much more viable community pharmacy network that is tapping into a more diverse range of funding and is focused on meeting consumer needs,” she says.

The Health Destination program is based on more than 15 years of work that began during Dr Roberts’s PhD in 2001. Pharmacies work with a Health Destination coach with the aim of developing more targeted health services that respond to the needs of the local community.

For example, in a community with high smoking rates, smoking cessation programs might be central to a pharmacy’s new service offerings.

“Once a pharmacy is enrolled in the program, they are provided with a workflow efficiency and pharmacist engagement assessment, and a local area and gap analysis that looks at who’s in the local community and what services the pharmacy is delivering to meet those needs,” Dr Roberts says.

While the end goal is a more sustainable business model and defined services that meet an identified need, getting there often involves a detailed examination of the way pharmacy staff interact with their clients.

Research shows consumers place value on pharmacist interaction, and that effective pharmacist-consumer engagement results in increased profits. As such, building strong relationships between pharmacists and communities is key to the program’s success.

“Often the process involves starting not with saying ‘OK, great, let’s implement service x’ but actually saying ‘Let’s look at how we’re working as a team and how our workflow is, how accessible the pharmacist is and see how we can get that working better’,” Dr Roberts says.

“Sometimes it involves going right back to looking at the roles and responsibilities and who’s doing what in the pharmacy, so it takes a whole-of-business approach, which is quite different to anything else that’s on the market.”

According to Warwick Plunkett, Chair of the UTS Pharmacy Industry Advisory Board, Dr Roberts was a worthy winner of the Innovative Pharmacist award, standing out from her competitors despite the record number of nominations received this year.

“We see this as a very significant innovation for community pharmacy,” he says.

“This is the first time we have seen the development of a program [which] includes facilitation, training, in-store support and the individualisation of what [each] pharmacy does in terms of the services they provide – and importantly, how the pharmacy changes their staffing models to enable new practices.”

The Health Destination program was successfully piloted in 14 pharmacies from 2012-2013. It is currently in scale-up phase in 25 pharmacies across Australia, with plans for future expansion.

Follow the link to see the full list of winners on the Graduate School of Health website.

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Health and Science