Could pharmacists help bridge the gap in osteoarthritis care?

A joint research initiative led by Curtin University will investigate the feasibility of community pharmacists taking a more active role in osteoarthritis care across Australia, consistent with the Australian Clinical Care Standard for knee osteoarthritis.

In partnership with the survey Curtin researchers will conduct a nation-wide survey of community pharmacists to assess their preparedness and willingness to deliver high-value care to people living with knee osteoarthritis.

Community pharmacist, academic and lead researcher Dr Kim Watkins, from Curtin School of Allied Health, said for many Australians, community pharmacists are more accessible than other primary healthcare professionals, possibly making them an invaluable yet underutilised resource in the management of people with the condition.

“Despite the prevalence, impact and cost of osteoarthritis, the quality of care in Australia falls short and substantial gaps persist,” Dr Watkins said.

“Many patients do not receive timely care to improve their function and manage pain, and the more than 6000 community pharmacies across Australia could potentially play a more defined role in bridging these gaps. We need to investigate these possibilities by hearing from pharmacists – what do they think is feasible?”

Curtin Medical School co-investigator and President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, Dr Fei Sim, said this critical information will help to better co-design health services and research in the future.

“We hope community pharmacists working at the coalface will tell us about their experiences, challenges and opportunities to contribute to osteoarthritis care,” Dr Sim said.

Osteoarthritis is a leading cause of pain, disability, work loss and cost to Australia with an estimated economic burden of $23 billion per year according to the National Osteoarthritis Strategy. Osteoarthritis impacts one in five Australians over the age of 45.

The research project, supported by an Arthritis Australia project grant, will collect evidence to determine the appetite and feasibility of involving community pharmacists in a more proactive role in knee osteoarthritis care.

Arthritis Australia Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Smithers said the peak body is proud to support this innovative project.

“We need to find new ways of delivering healthcare to meet the huge unmet need of people living with osteoarthritis, and we believe community pharmacy can play an important role,” Mr Smithers said.

Australian-registered community pharmacists are encouraged to voice their opinions and contribute to the research by participating in a brief survey, which is accessible through the following link:
https://tinyurl.com/PharmacyOA

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