A pilot program involving community pharmacists is meeting with success in addressing ear disease in rural and remote communities.
Pharmacy academic with the Centre for Rural and Remote Health at James Cook University Dr Selina Taylor said limited access to health services and providers was contributing to the alarmingly high rates of ear disease in rural areas.
The new intervention pilot called LISTEN UP, which stands for Locally Integrated Screening and Testing Ear aNd aUral Program, supported trained community pharmacists in conducting ear examinations using video otoscopy and tympanometry for patients that present with an ear complaint.
Dr Taylor said the community pharmacists played a vital role as primary health care providers in the pilot that has run in two north west and western Queensland communities for six months.
Participating pharmacies now offer the services independent of the pilot program.
Dr Taylor said 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," she said.
"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."
She said 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.
"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."
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Based at Blackall, CW Qld, where I've raised a family, run Merino sheep and beef cattle, and helped develop a region - its history, tourism, education and communications.
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