JANUARY 2014 - Pharmacists have long been dubbed an underused resource in chronic disease management and a new report from the Ontario Pharmacists Association (OPA) and Green Shield Canada has the statistics to prove it.
The report highlights the final outcome of a six-month, pharmacist-led hypertension management program supported in part by the Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy. The results of this randomized controlled trial involving 38 pharmacies and more than 150 patients across Ontario proved stellar for pharmacy-led services: the program improved systolic blood pressure by 13.5mm Hg, increased medication therapy by 15% and reduced antihypertensive medication costs by more than 31%.
"We were pleasantly surprised by how many of our plan members involved did improve and control their blood pressure," says David Willows, Vice-President of Strategic Market Solutions at Green Shield. "One of the things our industry struggles with is how to get real people to change and this gives us confidence that you can work with them one on one and give them the tools to change deeply engrained health behaviours."
Not only did patients in the intervention group report a very high level of satisfaction with their pharmacist services, 24% of those employed said they felt more productive at work as a result. One patient noted that the study "made me aware of the severity of hypertension and the damage it can do not only to the heart but other organs. I am now eating healthier and exercising daily."
With an average extra cost to Green Shield of $238 per patient for all the services delivered by pharmacists over the six-month period (not including medication reviews billed directly to government or reimbursement paid to pharmacists for collecting study data), Willows says it's a small investment that will likely pay large dividends in the long-term health of plan members and financial sustainability of benefits programs. He says the next logical step will be to see if this kind of success can be replicated for disease states. "When you look at cost-drivers, high blood pressure is there but so is cholesterol, diabetes, pain and depression," he says. "We're certainly looking at additional projects to expand the disease states we're working within."
In the meantime, Green Shield publishes an annual drug costs study based on drug costs trends and this year, a prominent chapter will be devoted to the outcomes of this pharmacist-led hypertension program. "We really hope it can be an education piece in what plan sponsors can do in their plan design."