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Australian Journal of Pharmacy : March 2005
management management updates Government funds pharmacy broadband P HARMACIES across the country are now eligible to receive funding to connect to high speed, secure broadband services as a result of a $14.5 million investment by the Federal Government. The Broadband for Health: Pharmacy program, announced by the Minister for Health and Ageing Tony Abbot last month, represents the culmination of extensive discussions between the Phar- macy Guild of Australia and the Depart- ment. According to the Department, phar- macists and consumers will benefit from increased, faster access to healthcare information, with secure email communi- cation between pharmacists and other healthcare providers or pharmaceutical suppliers, and rapid online access to drug references and health information. The subsidy is expected to be about $1,700 for each pharmacy, although the figure would vary depending on whether they are in a rural or metropolitan loca- tion. The program will entitle a pharmacy that takes out a 12-month service contract to apply for funding to meet set-up and installation costs, and to meet the ongoing provision of the service for 12 months. Pharmacists will be able to access Con- tinuing Pharmacy Education material, banking and ordering services online. In the future, Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme claims will be able to be sent to the Health Insurance Commission using PBS Online. It will be of particular bene- fit to pharmacists and consumers living in rural and remote areas. Broadband access will also support the implementation of the new national health information network, HealthCon- nect, which includes a system for elec- tronically collecting and storing informa- tion about medicines. Pharmacy Guild of Australia president John Bronger said the Guild was delighted at the Minister’s decision to allo- cate funds under the current Community Pharmacy Agreement to rollout this important initiative. ‘Broadband technology can offer many benefits to the health sector and has been recognised by the Government as a key area to progress under the Government’s eHealth strategy. Over the foreseeable future, it will assist with supply chain man- agement and communication between pharmacists and other healthcare providers’, Mr Bronger said. Under this initiative, pharmacists will have a choice of broadband providers from a list of Qualified Service Providers, all of whom have met stringent criteria regarding security features (such as fire- wall and anti-virus), bandwidth and ser- vice standards. Another positive about the broadband decision is that it will now enable phar- macy as a whole to begin formulating answers to the question: how do we best harness technology to deliver an informa- tion management platform that will meet the needs and maximise outcomes for both consumers and the profession? See p196, ‘Technology in pharmacy today and beyond’, for more discussion on the future of pharmacy’s IT infrastructure. ¦ ELEGATES at the Australian Pharmacy Professional (APP) con- ference on Queensland’s Gold Coast will have the opportunity to learn about the relationship between consumer behav- iour and brand management. Presenting the Pfizer Consumer Healthcare Plenary session at APP will be Chris Clark, who teaches corporate strat- egy at the Macquarie Graduate School of Management at Macquarie University, Sydney, and where he is director of cor- porate and executive education. Mr Clark told the AJP that many retail- ers, including pharmacists, did not have a good understanding of the relationship between brands and consumer behaviour. ‘It’s important for pharmacists to The relationship between consumer behaviour and brands D understand that, in a consuemr health- care sense, one of the key drivers of con- sumer purchase is reassurance, and the merged reassurance of the “brand in the box” and the “brand with the white coat on”,’ Mr Clarke said. ‘If there is a diver- gence between the two brands, then it can be a confusing experience for the con- sumer.’ Mr Clark said too many pharmacists believed consumers were primarily inter- ested in price, but for pharmacies, other issues such as brand reassurance, service, information support and education became more valued by consumers. He said supermarkets differentiated themselves on price and convenience, sug- gesting such a strategy within community 194 ? THE AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACY VOL.86 MARCH 2005 pharmacy would be counter-productive. Instead, differentiation should be baed on community pharmacy’s superior charac- teristics, such as better range of products, more qualified staff support, better layout and better supplier support. ‘I suspect not enough pharmacists have delved into the issue of supplier support and the relationship between the supplier, the pharmacy and the consumer. This is where we build brand equity, brand loy- alty and the switching cost—which is the cost incurred by the consumer for switch- ing purchases from a community phar- macy to another retail outlet, such as a supermarket. These costs perceived by the consumer can be practical or psychologi- cal,’ Mr Clark said. ¦