Increase in pharmacist powers improving health care: Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association

Allan Austin, director of communications for the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada, was in town earlier this week however to meet with Local MLA Pat Dunn and talk about some of those services in an effort to raise awareness of the potential.

Healthcare Closer to Home is an initiative to promote the delivery of professional healthcare from neighbourhood pharmacies. The program brings politicians into neighbourhood pharmacies to meet the pharmacist, experience a demonstration of an expanded scope of practice service, and to hear stories from the pharmacist about how these new services have been important to patients.

The Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association says the specialized training of pharmacists makes them a knowledgeable, regulated, and accessible resource that patients can use. Not only does this help improve access to healthcare, but it also provides cost-savings for the health system, and reduces the strain and pressure on our traditional healthcare providers in doctors’ offices and emergency rooms.

Provincial governments across Canada are increasing pharmacist scope of practice, enabling pharmacists to deliver services to their full potential. Healthcare Closer to Home showcases these services to the public, and encourage policy-makers to continue increasing pharmacist scope of practice where appropriate.

In 2010, the Nova Scotia government began passing a series of legislative and regulatory changes to expand the range of patient services pharmacists can provide.

Patients in Nova Scotia can now visit their neighbourhood pharmacy to seek treatment for certain minor ailments, such as cold sores and back pain.

Studies show that general practitioners spend around 15 per cent of their time treating patients with minor ailments, so by shifting these visits to the neighbourhood pharmacy, doctors have more time to focus on patients with more complex care needs.

Pharmacists also have the ability to renew, adapt, and substitute certain prescriptions.

To ensure a patient’s course of therapy can continue uninterrupted, pharmacists in Nova Scotia can renew most routine prescriptions without requiring the patient to present a new doctor’s prescription.

Pharmacists can also substitute for a different drug to reduce side effects, as well as alter the formulation of a prescription (ie. from a liquid to a capsule); change the regimen (ie. take four times a day instead of twice a day); or adjust the dose of the medication.

The expanded ability to renew, adapt and substitute prescriptions complements the medication review program, where pharmacists provide one-on-one counselling to patients to make sure they are taking their medications safely and appropriately.

Research has shown many severe illnesses – and deaths – are directly related to people receiving the wrong dosage of a drug, the wrong combination of drugs, or drugs which are not appropriate for them. Adverse Drug Reactions (ADRs) also put a strain on the health system with around 5 per cent of emergency room visits and 6 per cent of all hospitalizations as the result of ADRs. Many ADRs are preventable, and pharmacists can work with patients to ensure they are receiving appropriate, safe and effective treatments.

Pharmacists with proper training are also allowed to give vaccines such as the flu shot and other travel vaccines. Last flu season (2013/2014) was the first for pharmacists administering flu shots, and around 48 per cent of the province received vaccinations, up from the annual average of 34 to 35 per cent.

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Increase in pharmacist powers improving health care: Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association
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