More than 1,000 people tuned in to the APP Online livestream from Thursday 19 March to Saturday 21 March, supporting the reworked, digital format of the Australian Pharmacy Professional (APP) Conference.


With a backdrop of the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic crisis, presentations understandably focused on support for pharmacists and the wider community at this time. 


Below is an overview of some of the key sessions featured on the APP Online program:

OPENING PANEL: COVID-19 - a Pharmacy Perspective
Senior National Vice President Trent Twomey officially opened APP Online on Thursday 19 March, recognising the unique circumstances of the virtual conference.

“I am here today on behalf of National President George Tambassis who is grounded in Melbourne due to COVID-19.”

“This pandemic is placing an extreme amount of pressure on everyone in pharmacy. On behalf of the Guild, I am here to reassure the entire community pharmacy workforce that the Guild is here to support you, as you support the entire Australian community during this unprecedented event,” Trent said.

Immediate Past National President of the Pharmacy Guild, Kos Sclavos AM welcomed guests to the first session of APP Online, highlighting the current state of play regarding COVID-19 and key impacts for community pharmacy. As information is changing daily, Kos recognised that information presented live on Thursday 19 March may soon be outdated.

“Following the lead of our international colleagues ‘speed trumps perfection – the greatest error is not to move; we must be fast and have no regrets’. That is what we are here to do today with APP Online,” Kos said.

Panellists provided practical advice for pharmacists that can be implemented in the emerging COVID-19 crisis, including key business procedures and processes, supply chain issues, economic stimulus packages, scenario planning and importantly, how to manage and maintain a strong and resilient workforce during COVID-19.

Trent also highlighted that we are just at the beginning of this crisis and provided a call to arms to the pharmacy workforce to help each other out.

“Following the bushfires and floods, pharmacists are already fatigued and need all the help we can get as this crisis continues to unfold. You are the frontline staff, we need you and Australia needs you,” Trent said.

Fellow panellist and Queensland Guild Branch Director Gerard Benedet said that Guild Branches are open and here to help.

“There is a lot of uncertainty around right now. Don’t guess, ask your local Guild Branch should you have any questions regarding processes, industrial relations, customer support or clinical protocols,” Gerard said.

Any pharmacies needing support can call 13 GUILD or email covid@guild.org.au. The Guild has also developed and collated valid COVID-19 resources, guides and tools to support pharmacies during the pandemic which are available here.

Alan Russell Oration: Global search for innovation - learnings for Community Pharmacy in Australia
In this session, Community Pharmacist and 2018 Churchill Fellowship Recipient Lucy Walker detailed the findings of an international pharmacy study tour investigating innovative pharmacy practices which she conducted in September/October 2019.

The study mission encompassed Sweden, Germany, Scotland, England, Ireland, USA, Canada and New Zealand. Lucy’s main findings included the following:
•    Pharmacies are better utilised in the UK, Canada and NZ to improve the health of their communities. Australia is slowly catching up – this can be seen already in

      Queensland with widening vaccinations scope to travel meds, oral contraception and UTI trials
•    Now is the time to upskill yourself to stay useful and necessary to your patients
•    To be sustainable, Australia’s health system needs to focus on keeping people well and out of hospitals - pharmacy does this already but there is little existing funding

      to encourage this
•    Pharmacies need to be the health hubs of our communities - there is more we can do to improve patient adherence and chronic conditions
•    Overseas research and practice have shown the value and ability of pharmacists to safely provide a wider range of services, we just need implementation trials to

      ensure the professional service is delivered well within the Australian healthcare setting

What are ePrescriptions and what do they mean to me?
In times like this when pharmacies are extremely busy, we are seeing a significant increase in e-scripts. Now more than ever before pharmacies and pharmacists need to be prepared for the digital transformation.

In an APP first, FRED IT Group presenters Paul Naismith and Danielle Bancroft demonstrated the paperless prescription model, with the opportunity for delegates to receive a token and be taken through a demonstration of how pharmacists will dispense a paperless prescription.

“The token form is a simple version of replacing paper prescriptions. It works well for patients that have less complex medication needs and also for a more a transient population,” Paul said.

“We’re not forcing a change. If you like paper prescriptions, they are not going away. E-prescriptions simply provide patients a choice to receive prescriptions electronically.”

“Although there is a high demand for paperless prescriptions with COVID-19, we will maintain a careful stage of testing. It is vital we get it right”.

Pharmacists wishing to join this conversation on Twitter can use the tag @Fred .

Panel Discussion: The state of pharmacy including an update on 7CPA
Day two of APP Online started strong, with Kos Sclavos AM leading the panel discussion. Joined by Senior National Vice President Trent Twomey, National Vice President (Finance) John Dowling, National Councillor Natalie Willis and Queensland Branch President Gerard Benedet, the panel detailed the current state of the industry and the 7CPA. 

“One of the major sticking points of the 7CPA negotiations is the 60-day dispensing,” John said. “COVID-19 has highlighted that longer dispensing terms can lead to stockpiling.”

“As we know, stockpiling lends the way for medicine shortages which can have dire consequences for the community. Additionally, allowing people to stockpile medicines misses the opportunity for regular health check-ins to monitor changes in patient health and treatment requirements”.

The other major topics discussed by the panel included the $1 co-payment and consistent caps for Dose Administration Aids (DAAs).

“We know that 1 million Australian’s have not filled a script in the last year due to cost,” Natalie said.

Trent added that the Government has before them, an agreement that will address inequity and affordability.

“Everyone deserves a dollar off and our model removes the discretionary option as we are currently seeing, so that everyone gets the discount. We don’t want it removed, we want it extended to everyone,” Trent said.

Regarding DAAs, Trent said that given the current COVID-19 crisis, professional services such as DAAs and HMRs are more important than ever before.

“Pharmacists are essential healthcare deliverers and need to be seen as such. In an ideal world these professional services shouldn’t be capped by a stagnant figure, but rather by clinical needs such as Medicare and the PBS.”

“During COVID-19 we know we have our most at risk patients at home. At a minimum the Government should increase the caps for DAAs to 200 and make everyone over the age of 18 eligible.”

“Regarding home deliveries, we know the funds provided are insufficient. At this stage, we feel that speed trumps perfection. We’re taking the opportunity and will prove that we can make it work. Remember that $5 is the minimum charge; if your service warrants it, you can charge more,” Trent said.

John added that “the Guild has worked hard on these programs to give an income stream outside of dispensing. This agreement is asking for the same, to reduce the reliance on dispensing. It’s a shame if the Government can’t see this.”

Natalie summarised by adding “professional services can be a big change for pharmacy. It’s a work in progress but we’re getting better at it. The longer the programs continue the better they will be delivered and the expectation from the community will be that they continue.”

Understanding and engaging with the ever-changing customer
Providing APP Online delegates with an overview of consumer macro segments and emerging micro segments, and how community pharmacies can analyse and track new consumer cohort, was social demographer and researcher Mark McCrindle.

Mark’s message was that even amidst the extreme changes we are seeing, pharmacists remain the most trusted source of advice. Throughout this crisis, pharmacists have the opportunity to understand the trends that are coming and lead people forward.

“As uncertain as the pathways are, those that understand the trends can always lead,” Mark said.

So what trends will we be faced with?

According to Mark, by 2030 Australia will have more people over 60 than under 30, and the way our customers communicate and engage with pharmacy will change.
“The ‘digital integrates’ generation is the next generation. They are comfortable engaging in technology through touch, voice and actions. Indeed, they expect everything they touch to come to life.”

“Trends are shifting from ‘Dr Google’ to ‘Dr YouTube’. People don’t want to read advice, they want to watch a video on it.”

“Similarly, information sources are shifting from traditional news channels to Facebook and other social media sites.”

“The customer of the future communicates on different platforms and in new ways, so I encourage pharmacists to ask themselves - are you maintaining the communication channels to deliver the advice most appropriately?” Mark said.

Mark also reminded us that in an aging population the relationship with the pharmacy becomes more important than ever, however it is still important to build a relationship with the younger generations now.

“Our aging population has the ‘push’ factors to go to a pharmacy - they have reasons and a drive to visit their pharmacy. We need to consider ‘pull’ factors for the younger generations to engage with pharmacy.”

“It is vital to understand this younger cohort now, as they are the majority of the population, but they will also be your future, aging customers,” Mark said.

Ann Dalton Address: The Rosie Batty Story
This year’s Ann Dalton Address, which honours former Guild staff member Ann Dalton, who tragically died of brain cancer in September 2016, was presented by 2015 Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty.

In her heartfelt presentation, Rosie shared her personal story of domestic violence as well as highlighting the issue of family violence becoming more prevalent during the self–isolation phase of COVID-19.

“In Australia, family violence affects 1 in 3 women over 15 and 1 in 4 children. Family violence isn’t only a man perpetrating violence against a woman, it is a wider societal issue where the elderly, in particular, can also be very susceptible,” Rosie said.

“Physical abuse is highly prevalent in family violence, and pharmacists may be in a position to recognise and reach out to someone who may be experiencing this.”
Rosie also touched on less obvious forms of family violence such as medicine abuse, and how family violence is a social issue in which we all have to work together to support a positive outcome.

“As pharmacists and pharmacy workers, I encourage you to consider how you may be connected to family violence in your businesses and what steps you can enact to support or prevent those most vulnerable being abused.”

“Particularly throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, I believe there is an opportunity for compassion and generosity of spirit to continue and to rise. Pharmacists and pharmacy workers have a unique opportunity to be mindful of what customers are going though. Are they more anxious or are there signs of depression? You might be the person who can reach out and support them throughout this heightened crisis.”

Conflict 101 - understanding interpersonal conflict and developing strategies to manage cases of professional conflict or demand in pharmacy
Now more than ever, pharmacists need to consider how they manage conflict in their workplaces, whether with difficult and upset customers, prescribers, or colleagues.
This was the message from PDL Professional Officer Gary West, who is receiving a growing number of calls from pharmacists worried about the threats posed to them by the general public.

“Pharmacists are being smashed, and the reports to us are that the high volumes, the challenges with stock shortages and the demands of patients are leading to exhaustion and frustration,” Gary said.

“PDL are concerned about not only the wellbeing of the pharmacist but the safety of the public, because of the demands on the sector”.


Staged supply is a “classic situation” for conflict, he told APP Online delegates, as are requests for medicine without a script.


Gary provided some key strategies and advice on dealing with unacceptable behaviours and handling conflict during crises such as the current one.


Pharmacists can contact the Pharmacists Support Service on 1300 244 910 for peer support related to the demands of being a pharmacist in Australia during this challenging time.


If you require information on how to access these and other APP Online sessions, please email events@qldguild.org.au.

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