Lifting the focus on Men’s Health: personalised health care delivered by the Community Pharmacist

Community pharmacy in Australia has long been regarded as a fundamental pillar of healthcare and much more than the delivery of medication to patients and their families. The concept of accessing the local ‘Chemist’ for trusted advice, informative product recommendation or assisted referral to the local GP or allied health practitioner (Dentist, Physiotherapist, Occupational Therapist and so on), is what I feel makes community pharmacy so valuable to small local communities; particularly in this day of Dr Google.

To demonstrate the demand for pharmacist advice through Community Pharmacy, in the past week at our practice here in Canberra, our team of six pharmacists have seen over 3,000 patients. We have assisted with the usual cold and flu, allergy, asthma, and pain complaints, as well as:

  • Removed an overgrown earring from a seven-year-old’s ear lobe and provided after-care support
  • Counselled in two cases of self-harm, referring these patients to their GP, dressing wounds and reviewing their medication regimens
  • Removed a small piece of LEGO from a four-year-old boy’s external ear canal
  • Spent an hour working through a bunch of social and mental health issues with  a regular patient over a coffee, before referring him to a new and more appropriately matched GP for his needs, and then sitting in with him and the GP to get a plan together to help him through a difficult time
  • Presented to the local kindergarten class on preventative health strategies
  • Presented to the local Men’s Shed on Men’s Health issues, and
  • Used point-of-care testing to confirm influenza A and B in a 19-year-old female who was then referred to her GP.

This high level of effective engagement demonstrates that pharmacists are ideally positioned to assist their patients, communities and our allied health compatriots with personalised health care delivery, both now and into the future.

One of my real passions is the delivery of personalised health care to the many men who are referred to our practice. Much of the reward and recognition that our pharmacy has received this year has been as a result of our work in the men’s urological health area – that being with issues like prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction, incontinence, Peyronie’s Disease and the like. These issues have for many men been typically the ‘too embarrassing’ and ‘too awkward’ to discuss, so they suffer with it in silence, often for years, without daring to say or do anything about it.

When the patients see us, we help by breaking down the barriers, assessing the patients’ other medications, contributing social issues, previous medications tried and the level of success achieved, dispel myths and aim to increase health literacy. This information then helps form the basis for a personalised plan to address the relevant issues, which is then worked up and provided to the respective urologist and/or general practitioner for review and action so that each patient has the best hope of an outcome.

Not all of the personalised treatment plans for our patients include the use of medications.  A lot of the work in Men’s Health involves other non-drug options and collaboration with other members of the allied health care team such as physiotherapists, sexologists and nurses. The ability for us to specialise in this highly specific area of health has allowed us to develop a very strong knowledge of the medications, global trends, new research, techniques and issues identified. It also means that we work with many hundreds of patients with similar issues and we can track their progress, giving us insight into what works best but also what and where the pitfalls are. Beyond this many of our numerous Men’s Health patients are then happy to share their experiences with others who might be going through similar experiences, so as to support them and encourage them.  This is an amazing complementary service that can help breakdown the barriers, isolation and stigma associated with urological health.

Beyond Men’s Health and into the future, I see and encourage personalised health care being delivered by pharmacists in areas such as cardiovascular health, incontinence care, smoking cessation, diabetes management and mental health.  I am working with my team on developing personalised care programs tailored to these areas. The wonderful thing is that each pharmacy can identify their own areas where personalised health care is warranted and then link up with local allied health to deliver valuable services to their local community.

It is clear to me that there is a need and a demand from our patients to receive more personalised health care, which is accessible and high quality. This approach can only serve to better the health and wellbeing of patients and the wider community, and we are excited to be at the forefront of this strategy and delivering this personalised health care to patients through the local community pharmacy.