Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What is our value as pharmacists?

This is my last post before I move to my next rotation at an inpatient setting. I am excited to experience a hospital environment but also sad that I will be leaving rxBriefCase.  Before I leave, I’d like share on a topic that I feel very strongly about, and I’m sure many of you reading do too – how do we increase our value in the community?

How many times have you had patients walk up to you and say “Why do I have to wait so long for my meds? All you have to do is count pills and put it in a bottle”?

I have encountered this many times in the short 4 years of working and doing my studentship at several community pharmacies.  It is unfortunate that the general public still lack awareness on the critical role pharmacists play in their healthcare.  We are the representatives of our profession and must work harder to foster an appreciation and understanding of our roles and responsibilities.  Below are just a few ways we could make a difference in the pharmacy world.

Create awareness

There are many national and provincial campaigns such as Pharmacist Awareness Month (PAM) and Ask A Pharmacist where you can participate to promote your role. These campaigns occur annually and help reach a larger population. 

In addition to these large campaigns, there are simpler steps we can take to promote our role to patients.  For instance, putting up a poster in the waiting area that highlights the different steps taken to process and dispense medication. This will hopefully inform patients that there is more to just counting pills.

Medication reviews

Since its introduction in Ontario in 2007, there have been many variations and additions to the MedsCheck program such as annual MedsCheck, follow-up MedsCheck, diabetes MedsCheck, and many more.  Similar programs exist in provinces all across Canada such as Medication Management program in BC, Medication Management Assessment in Alberta, Medication Review Service in Nova Scotia, and PharmaCheck in New Brunswick. These programs are a great tool in improving patients’ healthcare but also allow patients to recognize pharmacists as an important healthcare provider. 

What’s more? You get reimbursed by the government for your time and effort (with the exception of YT, NU and NWT).  Therefore, every time you encounter eligible patients, be sure to inform them about Medication Review programs. 

Don’t sell yourself short

All across Canada, pharmacists’ scope of practice is expanding with the inclusion of prescription renewal and adaptation, ordering lab tests, prescribing for minor ailments, administering a drug by injection, and so on. However, the uptake of these new cognitive services by pharmacists has been limited, especially in Ontario in part because of the lack of government reimbursement. 1

Although lack of reimbursement is a setback, engaging in the expanded scopes of practice could open up opportunities for medication reviews or follow ups and hence generate revenues. Moreover, with the uptake of new practices you also improve patients’ experience, advocate for your profession, and take charge of the situation as an independent decision maker.

Following are some scenarios where pharmacists could consider shifting from old practices to newer ones:

Scenario 1: A patient walks in to the pharmacy and asks for an advance on her pills because her doctor is away and she is unable to get refills. Instead of simply advancing her the pills, you could take this opportunity to conduct a medication review, assess for appropriateness and accordingly refill her prescription.

Scenario 2: A patient brings in a prescription for drug XYZ in its tablet formulation. However, the patient is unable to swallow tablets. Instead of faxing back the prescription to the prescriber, you could assess the patient’s situation and adapt the prescription to a formulation that best suits his or her needs.

Leveraging the skills of pharmacy technicians
Regulation of pharmacy technicians is intended to relieve pharmacists of the more traditional dispensary role so that they may focus their attention on clinical services. As technicians expand their practice, pharmacists will find themselves with more time to do the same, thereby increasing patient well-being and establishing themselves as key players in the healthcare continuum.

Clinic days
Holding clinic days for chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and osteoporosis is an excellent approach to assess and educate patients. It is also a great way to showcase pharmacists’ extensive knowledge on disease states and treatment strategies. Moreover, clinic days give you an opportunity to empower your patients as they take charge of their health. 

According to the Ipsos Reid report, pharmacists are the most trusted healthcare professionals.2 In order to make pharmacists the most trusted and most valued healthcare professionals, we need to work together to highlight our skills and efforts.

1) Pojskic N. Expanded scope of practice: Ontario pharmacists’ early experiences and perceptions. Ontario Pharmacists. 2014;78(2):6-7
2) Cooper J. Changing pharmacy practice, enhancing patient care. Blueprint for Pharmacy. 2012. Available from http://blueprintforpharmacy.ca/docs/pdfs/blueprint-to-dal_jcooper_nov19-2012.pdf