An Exploratory Study of Extended Health Care Practitioner Roles in Medication Supply and Management in a Rural Community

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Hattingh, Laetitia
Emmerton, L
Tan, A
Jarvis, V
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Australia has a recognised shortage of qualified health professionals, particularly in rural and regional areas. Research has shown that rural patients indeed have poorer health status compared to metropolitan communities, with rates of mortality and morbidity constantly higher in rural regions. A number of ‘novel’ and ‘extended’ roles have been developed for existing health care professionals. Some of these roles have application to rural areas, such as additional functions in terms of provision of medicines. In Queensland in particular, the Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation 1996 (the Regulation), which provides the regulatory framework for the handling of medicines, has been amended to include a range of endorsements, including Indigenous Health Workers (IHW) and Rural and Isolated Practice-endorsed Nurses (RIPRN). Another development is the amendment of the Regulation to allow for a range of health professionals, namely optometrists, physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners, to prescribe medicines. Whether such developments have addressed the needs of rural communities remains unknown. Inherently, rural communities will suffer from limited access to health care services, and the services of the existing health care providers may be stretched to, or beyond, the scope of their recognised practice in order to meet the needs of the community. Little is known about the extent and nature of these ‘extended’ practices, the perceived need for (or obligation on) health professionals to adopt these roles, and the ethical, professional and legal considerations if/when they extend their services into non-traditional territories.
This research specifically focussed on the involvement of various health care providers in patients’ medication management in a defined community or region. In doing so, it aimed to identify medication-related issues of a community and the potential roles for pharmacists to enhance safe, effective and efficient access to medicines in a rural setting.

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© 2011 Pharmacists Board of Queensland. The attached file is reproduced here in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.

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