Supporting Innovation in Pharmacy for a Healthier Canada

When innovation equals change


June 2022 - Every year the Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy supports innovation in pharmacy via its Innovation Fund Grants, awarded to pharmacy researchers and leaders across the country. The following are just a few examples of how these innovative initiatives can have a far-reaching impact on the profession.

Pharmacists as travel medicine experts 

When pharmacist Sherilyn Houle decided to study the clinical effectiveness of travel medicines administered by pharmacists, she didn’t anticipate it would become a hot topic across the profession and eventually a viable service niche for community pharmacists.

Her study, funded by CFP in 2015, has since been cited by numerous academic studies internationally. “We have seen a lot of growth in this field in the seven years since I received this grant,” says Houle, noting that several provinces have expanded pharmacy practice scope to include providing care to travellers, while several pharmacy chains have since launched their own pharmacy-based travel clinics.

“I think the most successful milestone reached since 2015 is that there is a greater awareness among both pharmacists and the public that this is an area where pharmacists can provide care,” she says. “Even if a pharmacist doesn’t choose to specialize in travel medicine, many more pharmacists are now comfortable with performing basic consultations for low-risk travellers, and patients have come to expect that they can receive advice from their pharmacist.” 

Houle, Assistant Professor at University of Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy, says there has also been a notable rise in continuing education programs about travel medicine for pharmacists to help address some of the knowledge barriers that may prevent them from taking on a greater role in this area. “My ultimate goal is that all pharmacists have the ability and confidence to provide at least basic pre-travel services for patients, with some choosing to specialize so they are able to provide more complex consultations,” she says. “I also hope we have networks established where referrals to these pharmacist experts can occur as required.”

To get there, she envisions the day when pharmacy schools include travel medicine in their curriculum and employers routinely support pharmacists in pursuing post-graduate education in this area.

Pharmacists as service providers

Pharmacy services can benefit patients and the healthcare system, but only when pharmacists have the time to provide them. The Prescription to Thrive (Rx to Thrive) program has proven that a structured approach to practice change in community pharmacies, where services are front and centre, is feasible—and lucrative.

Funded by the CFP and many other stakeholders, including the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness, the program was spearheaded by the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia (PANS) in 2018, with 22 independent, banner and corporate pharmacies who have completed the program and another 18 involved in Phase 3. “There’s never been a more important time to embrace the growing scope of pharmacy practice and we’re excited to work with pharmacy teams to help them realize their potential,” says Glenn Rodrigues, Pharmacy Practice Facilitator at PANS and one of the program’s original coordinators. “Our approach is to help build the capacity of the team so they feel like they can manage what is being asked of them.”

 Several of AMP’s Guardian pharmacies were among the first to join the program. “We’ve had a tremendous shift in how our teams—pharmacists and non-pharmacists—view pharmacy services as part of their daily routine,” says Robin Ogilvie, AMP’s Director of Pharmacy Operations. “The old model of tracking scripts per hour doesn’t hold up when you start to build real traction with pharmacy services. We’ve developed new ways of measuring labour reinvestment to support and grow these services, and still measure efficiency in dispensing operations.”

Pharmacy services are now embedded in the day-to-day culture of the workplace and these pharmacies have successfully “graduated” from the Rx to Thrive program. “We’ve added staffing, both pharmacists and assistants, that wouldn’t have been possible without the revenues from services,” says Ogilvie. “The win is that the additional staffing provides strength and depth for the team and continues to support more growth and development of services.”

Ogilvie says more AMP Guardian pharmacies are participating in phase 3 of Rx to Thrive. “Our continued participation gives us new and helpful insights into how we can be successful,” says Ogilvie. “I feel excited for our place in the healthcare landscape going forward.”

Pharmacists as immunizers

Pharmacist owner and University of Toronto Assistant Professor John Papastergiou is certainly pleased that the results of his research in 2018 to quantify adherence rates to adult immunizations administered by community pharmacists proved so positive. The results, published by the International Journal for Pharmacy in 2021, clearly show the significant impact pharmacist-immunizers can make when they’re supported by provincial legislation and funding.

“After the paper was published, stakeholders started approaching me from different areas of the profession because there wasn’t a lot of real-world data talking about improved adherence with pharmacist-administered vaccines,” he says.

The findings are also having a global impact. “I’ve presented the data in multiple countries and some are looking at our model and saying we can mobilize pharmacists to help with other vaccines too,” says Papastergiou.

COVID-19 has helped propel the role of pharmacists as immunizers. “We know that there are gaps in care in terms of vaccinations and pharmacists can help fill them,” he says.

The doors are opening in screening for chronic and infectious disease as well. “For a time, we were worried about what role pharmacists would play in the future and now we’re being pulled in 100 different directions because of our accessibility and clinical knowledge.”

For his part, Papastergiou and his pharmacy team on the front line are making better use of their existing software to identify and screen those who are missing vaccines and other healthcare services to get them back on track. ■

Read more stories from CFP's latest Changing Face of Pharmacy Spring 2022 Report. Email Paul Kidston (pkidston@cfpnet.ca) to get your copy.