MAY 2020 - In the fight to reduce high blood pressure, pharmacists can make a real difference, believes Ross Tsuyuki, Professor and Chair in the Department of Pharmacology in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta. So much so that he worked with Hypertension Canada, where he sits on the board of directors, to develop a certification program to help pharmacists do just that.
Launched in April, the Hypertension Canada Professional Certification Program’s (HC-PCP) aims to give pharmacists a comprehensive approach to implementing the Hypertension Canada Guidelines into their practices and get them comfortable in treating high blood pressure using appropriate medications.
The origins of the program can be traced back to 2015 when Tsuyuki co-authored a research article about the cost-effectivenss of pharmacists in hypertension management. It was based on the 2015 Alberta Clinical Trial in Optimizing Hypertension (RxACTION), funded in part by the Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy. What they found was an opportunity to improve not only medical outcomes but economic ones as well.
“Pharmacists know drugs better than anyone else and they see patients eight times more frequently than people see their physicians,” says Tsuyuki, noting that if pharmacists helped just 50 per cent of people better manage their high blood pressure, it could save the Canadian economy $15.7 billion. “Most health interventions cost something and you get something out of it but with this you save money and you get better health outcomes.”
The HC-PCP takes a couple of months on average to complete. Its goal is to equip pharmacists with the confidence to help their patients achieve a better health result through patient assessment (for cardiovascular risk), decisions regarding management, patient education, documentation and follow-up. In addition to online learning, it encourages hands-on learning too.
Once pharmacists have completed the online skills portion of the program, they are required to submit three real-life patient case studies where they’ve provided hypertension management. This is reviewed by a panel of experts before certification can be granted. “In doing so, we will hopefully be able to show that an educational program can affect patient outcomes which will lead to more programs like ours,” says Tsuyuki
While the impact of COVID-19 has delayed the full launch of the program, there are currently 10 pharmacists across Canada enrolled online, and more than 50 pharmacists in Alberta who have signed on to start in September as part of a study called RxPATH. Once they’ve successfully completed the program, pharmacists are certified for two years at which point they have to submit three new patient examples. Tsuyuki believes having this certification will arm pharmacists with the knowledge and confidence needed to make a real impact in the fight against hypertension.
“Pharmacists have stepped up to demonstrate their important role as primary healthcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he says. “During this pandemic, patients still have chronic conditions that require care and here lies the opportunity for pharmacists to help improve access for patients and also help out their physician colleagues.”
In the future, Tsuyuki plans to make the program available to primary care physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers.