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2012 Pharmacy Forum: Look how far we’ve come – but it’s not over yet

2012 Pharmacy Forum: Look how far we’ve come – but it’s not over yet

The message to pharmacy stakeholders attending the Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy’s 2012 Pharmacy Forum in October was both encouraging and sobering. Progress is ongoing, but so is the battle for pharmacists hoping for an expanded role in Canada’s healthcare system.

Speakers provided concrete examples of just how much is being done to get the profession on track in the face of drug reforms and continuing cutbacks. In his update on the Blueprint for Pharmacy, Co-Chair Dr. Dennis Gorecki noted that there is no turning back now for the profession and “pharmacists need to adapt to this new reality and continue to stress that they can play an important role in healthcare transformation.”

Gorecki said 2013 and beyond will be about defining the future of pharmacy education with a focus on experiential learning, as well as pharmacy human resources and financial visibility and sustainability for the profession. Technology will play a big part in streamlining and validating pharmacy services, he said, noting that the launch of MirixaPro Canada (a web-based clinical decision support tool from the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores) will help pharmacists to do just that.

A national consumer PR campaign is also in the works to complement the efforts of provincial pharmacy associations in heralding the benefits of pharmacy services. “It’s built around the idea of Pharmacy Awareness Week with a thought to extend that to Pharmacy Awareness Month,” said forum attendee Jeff Poston, executive director of the Canadian Pharmacists Association. “Consumers still don’t really know that pharmacists can do more than dispensing.”

Consultant Marnie Mitchell, former CEO of the BC Pharmacy Association, outlined further progress underway by provinces like BC and New Brunswick in terms of select pharmacy services. “In B.C., 50% of pharmacists have gotten injection authority and 65% of pharmacies have at least one pharmacist on staff who can do injections,” she said. (In N.B., 75% of pharmacies have a pharmacist with injection training.) As statistics keep rising for publicly funded vaccines, Mitchell said injections are one example of a very sustainable service for pharmacists. She also cited the progress of Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia in terms of securing prescribing authority for minor ailments.

And while Alberta has always been a leader when it comes to pharmacists’ expanded scope, Margaret Wing, CEO of the Alberta Pharmacists Association, enlightened the group on just how difficult it was to secure the latest pharmacy services framework for Alberta pharmacists. “We have this delusion that there is public funding out there for us,” she said. “If you can’t prove what the pharmacist is doing in terms of patient assessments, anything further is difficult.”

Wing noted that the profession still has a lot of educating to do both to consumers and healthcare providers. “Physicians are pissed off,” she said, adding that leaving it up to the organizations to solve all the problems just won’t be feasible. “At the end of the day, pharmacists and physicians have to sit down and figure it out at the front-line level,” she said.

In the meantime, she says nurses are already coming around. “When it came to immunizations, it wasn’t about the money. [Nurses] didn’t think pharmacists could do immunizations,” she says. “But pharmacists have risen to the occasion.”

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