Supporting Innovation in Pharmacy for a Healthier Canada

Pharmacies respond to patients' needs


Koon_Leung_SDM Ned_Pojskic_GSC Neil_Donald_MCK Phil_Emberly_CPhA
Koon Leung, Shoppers Drug Mart Ned Pojskic, Green Shield Canada Neil Donald, McKesson Canada Phil Emberley, Canadian Pharmacists Association

NOVEMBER 2015 - The majority of Canadians consider their pharmacist to be important to their health, notes a 2015 survey by the Canadian Pharmacists Association. So how do we ensure pharmacists meet patient needs and truly bridge the growing gaps in our healthcare system? This question was posed to a panel representing pharmacy, industry and private payers at the Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy’s (CFP) annual Pharmacy Forum in November.

Moderated by Philip Emberley, CPhA’s Director Pharmacy Innovation, the panel looked at successful pharmacy programs currently underway and the elements needed to give them a wider reach. 

“We really have to learn to listen [to patients] first,” said Koon Leung, Director of Pharmacy Category Management at Shoppers Drug Mart, adding that pharmacists want to make a difference but are generally wearing too many hats. “We need to partner with other organizations…and we have to have those conversations to determine what is the need and how do we tackle it together.” 

New services

Leung pointed to a Shopper’s pilot program for shingles vaccination that is taking immunizations to the next level. “We saw tremendous growth [of immunizations] in provinces where we did this,” she said. “If we look to our boomer population, they are looking to prevent disease…it’s really about answering that patient need”

Ned Pojskic, Pharmacy Strategy Leader at Green Shield Canada, talked about his company’s partnership with pharmacy to do just that. The Pharmacist Health Coaching for Cardiovascular Care program is the first time a private payer is investing in pharmacy services across plans to meet an unmet patient need in cardiovascular health. “We are very proud of pharmacist health coaching as it redefines the relationship between pharmacy and private payers.”

He pointed to key components of the program that have contributed to its success: mandatory certification and training for pharmacists, standardized documentation forms to act as guides and software to help with deployment, as well as clear reporting and outcome measures. “We recognize that our role goes beyond paying claims and we’re trying to play a much bigger part. Pharmacy services are an important component of that strategy,” said Pojskic.

Neil Donald, Director Private Payers for McKesson Canada, which owns the largest pharmacy banner group in Canada, said pharmacists become their own champions when they have a real interest in something. “A lot of them are in this for the betterment of patient care and we want to support that entrepreneurial spirit,” he said, outlining innovative and successful programs centred around pharmacy in McKesson’s own banner group. One example is a Medicine Shoppe owner in B.C. who came up with the idea of rapid HIV testing. “He saw the need and built something in his community,” said Donald. “We’ve helped him get support around [the program] and there has been a lot of positive response.”

Taking measure

All panelists pointed to evidence-based outcomes as essential to the delivery of pharmacy services. “Though we have tons of evidence on chronic disease management, there’s nothing like taking your own population and showing [pharmacy services] lead to these outcomes,” said Pojskic. And hopefully government support will soon follow. “When we can show government that there are cost-effective ways to take care of patients, it’s a better conversation,” added Leung.

Combining efforts to provide better patient care was another key factor noted by Emberley. “Having different services in different provinces doesn’t serve our society well,” he said. “We need harmony across the country and that’s not just coverage of medication but coverage of pharmacy services.”