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OPEN results point to untapped potential

OPEN results point to untapped potential

MAY 2016 – Patients are receptive to healthcare services from pharmacists—but the profession appears to be falling short when it comes to helping those with more complex needs.

These are among the findings of three years’ worth of research into pharmacists’ services in Ontario, conducted by the Ontario Pharmacy Research Collaboration (OPEN) and presented at the Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy’s annual Innovation Gala in April. The research focuses on services funded by the provincial government, such as MedsCheck medication reviews and flu vaccinations.

Steady gains in uptake demonstrate that consumers are adapting to pharmacists’ new role, and qualitative feedback shows that accessibility is a key selling point. “We need to be proud of the fact that we’re serving large populations with these new services,” said Nancy Waite, co-lead researcher of OPEN.

Moreover, the numbers are beginning to point to improved health outcomes, such as an increased flu immunization rate.

However, Waite also spoke candidly of the “elephant in the room,” that being the operational and other challenges that get in the way of pharmacists’ own uptake as providers of expanded services. Claims data for MedsCheck reviews, for example, reveal that “pharmacy is really missing the opportunity to reach complex, vulnerable, high-needs patients,” said Waite.

To help pharmacists and pharmacy head offices overcome the challenges, future research can do more to address areas such as quality improvement, change management and reimbursement models, she added.

To that end, CFP’s own Innovation Fund supports initiatives that improve health outcomes and serve to help advance the profession. Several recent grant recipients were guests at the Gala, including:

  • Sherilyn Houle, University of Waterloo, who is studying the impact that pharmacists can make as prescribers and administrators of travel vaccines;
  • Tajel Patel, also of University of Waterloo, who is examining the results of pharmacists’ services for the frail elderly, provided in a primary care setting;
  • Jeff Taylor, University of Saskatchewan, whose interviews with pharmacists and physicians regarding pharmacists’ prescribing for minor ailments will include capturing the concerns of both professions. An economic evaluation is also scheduled for release this fall.

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