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Investigating the management of potentially cancerous nonhealing mouth ulcers in Australian community pharmacies

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We sought to examine the management and referral of nonhealing mouth ulcer presentations in Australian community pharmacies in the Greater Brisbane region. Trained simulated patients visited 220 randomly selected community pharmacies within the Greater Brisbane region in 2016. Simulated patients enacted two nonhealing (>1 month) mouth ulcer scenarios: A direct product request (DPR) (n = 110) and a symptom‐based request (SBR) (n = 110). Results were documented and evaluated against Australian national pharmacy practice standards. Referral rates for pharmacy staff (pharmacist, pharmacy assistant or mixed—pharmacist and assistant) were also assessed. Australian pharmacy practice standards recommend staff ask six key questions during SBR and DPR consultations to enable informed decision‐making. Two questions relating to identifying the patient and their symptoms were asked in the majority of interactions (76% and 69% respectively); the remaining four questions relating to symptom duration, treatments tried, other medications, and medical conditions were enquired in only 32%, 53%, 31%, and 27% of interactions, respectively. Simulated patients were referred to the doctor/dentist in only 11.8% of all interactions (both scenarios requiring referral). Overall, staff handling of nonhealing mouth ulcer consultations was suboptimal compared to national professional standards. In particular, duration of the nonhealing mouth ulcer was enquired in less than one‐third of consultations potentially resulting in low referral rates by staff. This study identifies the need for increased oral cancer awareness and education for community pharmacy staff and reinforcing the importance of practising according to professional standards to effectively screen for potentially cancerous nonhealing mouth lesions.
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Keywords: community pharmacies; mouth neoplasms; referral consultation; service evaluation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2019

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