GPs worried new pharmacy tests put patients at risk

04 July, 2017

The body that represents over 90% of Australia’s GPs and fights for the interests of their patients says a move by the Amcal pharmacy chain to start ordering pathology tests creates a range of risks for patients.

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Acting President Dr Edwin Kruys said, "while we welcome and encourage other healthcare providers to contribute to patient care, your GP clinic is the most appropriate place to order a pathology test, not a pharmacy.

"GPs are in the best position to recommend pathology tests based on your personal medical history, symptoms and a physical examination.

"Pharmacists add value when it comes to giving advice and information about medicines, but ordering a test through a pharmacy rather than your local GP creates risks for patients including fragmentation of care, unnecessary duplication of tests, confusion about the interpretation of the results, and increased out of pocket costs.

"In fact out of pocket costs are likely to be considerable as we understand pathology tests ordered by a pharmacist are unlikely to attract a Medicare rebate.

"It is disappointing there has been no consultation with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners about this move.

"We would strongly encourage pharmacies to work together with GP teams, not introduce more duplication and fragmentation of services.

"GPs must be at the centre of any multidisciplinary healthcare model and general practice is the most appropriate hub for the provision of coordinated quality medical care.

"Patients who order pathology tests through pharmacists may face gaps in their medical history.

"Pharmacists are not trained to provide health advice either before or after a test is ordered.

"There is also an inherent conflict of interest in pharmacists delivering general practice services.

"Requesting pathology tests should be free of pecuniary interests as this leads to a better allocation of resources. "General practices are also able to provide patients with a safe, private and comfortable setting to discuss confidential details prior to the ordering of a test.

"We're not aware of any evidence that this latest initiative by the Amcal pharmacy chain meets an unmet need."

For more details please see the RACGP's position paper on the expanding role of pharmacists in primary healthcare.