The extra ‘P’ at APP


By Lisa Burling, Director Consumer Health

I’ve been lucky enough to escape Sydney for the sunnier climes of the Gold Coast this week, spending a couple of days at the APP conference.

APP stands for ‘Australian Pharmacy Professional’ and is the annual conference of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia. But after listening to various talks and having conversations with delegates I think a ‘p’ is missing – and that’s one that stands for PEOPLE.


Because I’ve discovered that, behind closed doors, pharmacists spend a lot of time talking about us which is fantastic and hugely positive. Of course there are conversations about other ‘p’s – price points and politics to name just two. But it’s me and you – in our role as their customers – that they’re most interested in.

Senior Drug Information Pharmacist at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane, Dr Geraldine Moses urged pharmacists and their teams communicate the facts to people about pain relief medication – rather than what they think is right. Can we take our pain killers without eating first? It turns out we can. Are all pain relievers the same, and appropriate for all of us? Absolutely not.  This is why it’s so important a conversation takes place.

Dr Colin Mendelsohn, a GP who sits on the Australian Association of Smoking Cessation Professionals painted a vivid picture of people who smoke – and why they do it. For some it’s genetics and the ‘reward pathway’ which increases levels of dopamine in their brain; for others it’s cue-induced cravings like coffee or just the generally positive feelings these people get when they inhale. I didn’t know that 75% of smokers want to quit, but the success rate of trying to do it on their own is extremely low. In fact, 50% of quitters will relapse after 12 months.  Pharmacists and pharmacy assistants who sat in that room with me will take this information and apply it to their customers – people who need professional guidance and support to finally give up and live a healthier life.

Pharmacists also know a lot about the different types of people who walk through their pharmacy doors. Grocery channels like Woolworths and Coles have put their kit on and walked onto their playing field. It’s no secret that Woolworths is looking at healthcare as a source of growth in the coming years.

According to Dr Gary Mortimer from the Queensland University of Technology Business School, pharmacists ask “who walks through my door instead of going to supermarket, and why are they doing it?” Interestingly, Dr Mortimer says the real opportunity for pharmacy and supermarkets is affluent people aged 55 and over. He also highlighted that the basic fundamentals of relationships with people – trust, legitimacy and value – are what differentiate a pharmacist from a shelf-stacker in aisle four. Supermarkets simply can’t operate in this space; professional advice from a real person cannot be addressed with signage and a shelf wobbler. 

Perhaps Dr John Bell from the PSA Self Care Program summed it up best: “Optimal staff selection and training is likely to be the greatest asset and most important investment for ensuring pharmacy success.”

Or put more simply: “employing the right people, trained by the best people, to give the best possible help and advice to people who need it.”

I vote for a name change – APPP in 2013!

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