Objective: In rural Australia access to doctors is limited, access to respiratory physicians even more so and these are the traditional sources of lung function testing. The aim of this study was to assess the feasibility of training and supporting existing rural primary healthcare providers in lung function testing as a screening and monitoring mechanism due to the shortage of healthcare professionals capable of providing such a service.
Methodology: As pharmacists are readily accessible healthcare professionals, they were trained in spirometry measurement and supported with ongoing quality assurance by respiratory scientists. Spirometers were provided to the pharmacists. People purchasing respiratory medications or responding to advertising about the service were tested after giving informed consent. Spirometic assessments were assessed for accuracy and reproducibility. Participants' spirometry results were reviewed and those with abnormal test results were referred to their doctor.
Results: Pharmacists were able to competently develop the skills necessary for providing spirometry measurement as a screening and monitoring technique. The level of competence exceeded that reported in previously published studies. Pharmacists were able to successfully identify spirometry results within the normal range.
Conclusions: Training and supporting accessible healthcare professionals to provide lung function testing increases access in areas of need and has implications for respiratory morbidity and mortality in such settings.