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22 November 2018

As National President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, Shane Jackson often finds himself on the road. It’s his job to travel the country, meeting with local pharmacists to better understand the challenges they face in their practice.

The overwhelming response? Pharmacy is too often like putting together a jigsaw puzzle with crucial pieces missing.

“When a patient comes into a pharmacy, often the only information I’ll have is their medication history,” Shane says. “I might be able to interpret and have a chat with them about the conditions they have, but lots of different medications can be used for many conditions.”

Information is critical to pharmacists. But more often than not, they find themselves relying on educated guesswork to make a judgment call when dispensing medications. If they can’t see the information from previous consultations with other healthcare providers, they can’t always ensure the best outcome for that patient.

This is a common reality for Shane who lives and breathes the pharmacy profession. He has more than 18 years’ experience in the field and is also the proud owner of his own community pharmacy in Tasmania. It’s also why he believes that My Health Record presents a golden opportunity. 

‘My Health Record is just fantastic because you can actually capture prescription medications and diagnostic information where there could be contradictions to the recommendations you were going to make,” Shane says.

“For pharmacists and for patients who come into a pharmacy, a digital health record is going to be a total game changer in the care that people can expect. Pharmacists will have access to more information about the person than ever before and can accurately tailor the care they give to that person as a result.”

Adding pieces to the puzzle

For Shane, the benefits of such an initiative are obvious. Australians young and old will be empowered with the ability to have their medication information available to them at all times.

“The common misconception is that a certain illness or ailment requires a specific medicine or treatment,” Shane says. “Every individual is different, and although medicines are beneficial in many ways, we also see many problems arising from taking the wrong medications or ignoring how some medications interact with each other.”

Heart conditions are a good example of why this transparency is important. They’re relatively common, but there are many medications people shouldn’t take if they have one.

“There are even medications that people can get over-the-counter that you absolutely shouldn’t take with prescription medication,” Shane says. “Having access to that prescription information isn’t readily available in the average pharmacy, but it’s absolutely critical for us.”

Shane has been a vocal supporter of the My Health Record initiative since it started in 2011. He feels the recent move to an opt-out model was necessary to bring most Australians into the program.

“Because the majority of people will actually have a My Health Record, it will become quite seamless,” he says. “It will be an expectation that somebody has a My Health Record. That’s going to be very valuable to me, to be able to deliver the best ongoing care.”

Improving care for the elderly

Shane’s previous experience saw him working extensively in aged and community care. He established Pharmacy Services, a leading provider of medication reviews in aged care.

He’s acutely aware of the number of medications an elderly patient is taking on a daily basis and appreciates the need for a central point to manage this information. It’s even more critical when these patients have been in hospital.

“What most pharmacists will experience is somebody coming out of hospital, maybe on a Friday afternoon, and they may have had some changes in their prescriptions,” Shane says. “Often, they’re a little confused about what those changes are. They come in to the pharmacy and effectively ask what they’re meant to be taking.

“My Health Record is going to be a vital tool in this situation. We’ll have access to a discharge summary that tells us what happened in hospital. That’s a game changer – it will dramatically improve the health of the Australian public.”