Pharmacy Pathology Tests “Opportunistic, wasteful”

6 Jul 2017

The AMA has slammed the move by pharmacies to sell pathology screening tests. Bypassing a patient’s usual GP to conduct the tests will leave patients out of pocket and put patient care at risk.

“This is more than worrying – it is opportunistic, wasteful and bordering on irresponsible,” said AMA Vice President, Dr Tony Bartone.

“Pharmacists are simply not trained to assess whether a patient requires a pathology test. This requires significant training and expert clinical judgement to determine whether the ordering of pathology tests is actually appropriate for a patient and the subsequent interpretation and management of that result.”

Pharmacies are encroaching on the role of GPs by charging for costly pathology screening tests for kidney, thyroid and liver function. The tests cost between $25 and $220, with no rebate under the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) for the patient. Although pharmacies claim that the tests are an improvement on patients seeking inappropriate online tests, a pharmacy does not replace the role of the GP. 

This push from pharmacy into areas beyond its traditional and logical scope creates a host of problems for health care delivery. By ordering pathology tests pharmacists are fragmenting care and actively working against the provision of continuity of care by a patient’s regular GP. The Amcal pharmacy chain has been promoting the tests as part of preventative healthcare, but there is no consistency in referring the patient to their GP. 

“If a pharmacist thinks one of their customers has risk factors that merit further investigation, they should encourage them to see their GP as the first step, so that their GP can undertake an examination to determine whether any further diagnostic tests are warranted,” said Dr Bartone.

Full media release.