Are pharmacists qualified to provide health checks?
Many pharmacists provide ad hoc monitoring and screening services, usually without a formal protocol in place.
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has suggested integration of pharmacists into primary health care, supported by a Commonwealth government payment.
While patients could save money from general practitioner visits, are pharmacists qualified enough to provide health checks?
What is a health check?
Health checks would assess patients at risk of chronic disease. The Pharmacy Guild proposes the checks could encompass weight, Body Mass Index (BMI), blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol, together with smoking and alcohol intake.
Are pharmacists trained and qualified?
A Bachelor of Pharmacy is a rigorous degree, qualifying graduates to practise as pharmacists. While no additional formal training exists for pharmacists who choose to perform health checks, refresher and online training courses have been discussed.
While pharmacists may be trained to measure and test patients, are they able to make clinical assessments of patients?
Health checks provided by general practitioners
General practitioners are clinically trained to assess vital signs and symptoms, especially for patients with comorbidities. Health checks may involve taking a patient history, a physical examination, initiating interventions and organising referrals where necessary.
A study by the University of Adelaide found general practitioner-provided health checks showed statistically significant improvements in high risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Environmental issues in a pharmacy
General practitioners work in clinical and private environments, providing preventive health care advice and information in a secure setting. A pharmacy health check may not provide adequate privacy for screening patients away from third parties.
Pharmacists' role in health care
Pharmacists are qualified to form part of the multidisciplinary in patient care. They have a crucial role in a health care team ensuring patients who have co-morbidities and who are prescribed polypharmacy do not have drug-related morbidity and mortality.
Clear understanding, respect and acceptance of their role and contributions in health care can deliver effective multidisciplinary efforts. It can improve therapeutic efficacy and enhance patients' quality of life.