Ear disease in rural and remote communities is occurring at alarmingly high rates, with limited access to health services and providers contributing to the problem. Community pharmacists are playing a vital role as primary health care providers by supporting rural patients in a new intervention pilot called LISTEN UP (Locally Integrated Screening and Testing Ear aNd aUral Program). The pilot, run in two rural Queensland communities for six months, supported trained community pharmacists in conducting ear examinations using video otoscopy and tympanometry for patients that present with an ear complaint. Participating pharmacies now offer the services independent of the Pilot program.
Dr. Selina Taylor, Pharmacy Academic, Centre for Rural & Remote Health at James Cook university, said that the LISTEN UP pilot, had already seen positive patient outcomes from community pharmacist and GP collaboration.
“Community pharmacists are playing a vital collaborative role in primary health care to support rural patients.”
“Participating pharmacists follow the LISTEN UP protocol and make patient recommendations, which could include no treatment, pharmacy-only products, or referral to a general practitioner via an embedded direct referral pathway.”
“Many patients present in their community pharmacy with ear pain or a blocked ear,” said Dr. Taylor,
“The pilot supports those patients to receive primary health care in a timely manner which can reduce potential emergency department presentations or negative patient outcomes.”
“Patients have already positively described the service from their local community pharmacy and commented how trusted, trained and knowledgeable their pharmacist is.”
“Primary health care professionals, including community pharmacists, GPs, specialist medical officers and others in the rural communities have been collaborating on the LISTEN UP pilot.”
“Health outcomes for the local communities continue to be improved through community pharmacists practicing towards their full scope and primary health care professionals working together,” said Dr. Taylor.
“The LISTEN UP pilot is a step in the direction for rural community pharmacists to be working to their full scope of practice and improving patient health outcomes in their local community.”