CEO's message: Time for Creative Solutions

Updated on August 28, 2019 (Originally posted on August 20, 2019) The Tablet

This is a special year for community pharmacists in B.C. as the first graduates from the University of British Columbia’s Entry-to-Practice (E2P) PharmD program take their places at pharmacy practice settings across B.C. 

Like all pharmacists, the E2P grads are committed to patient care. And that care looks different depending on their area of practice. For many, they will join the majority of pharmacists who work in community pharmacies in cities both big and small. For others, they will join emerging opportunities to become a member of an integrated primary care team. And others will specialize in elder care, substance use disorder, diabetes or working with patients dealing with chronic pain.

But regardless of where each grad ends up, there is a common thread: Community pharmacists remain the most under-utilized health-care professional in the health-care team. Pharmacists are highly trained and highly skilled professionals who have strong and lasting relationships with their patients. They have much more to contribute to patients and the health-care system.  

While there is a patchwork of “increased scope of practice” across Canada, what doesn’t exist is a true integration of community pharmacy services that would enable faster access to patients when a doctor visit is not necessary. True integration of pharmacists into health-care teams would help address poly-pharmacy problems in seniors and the rising death toll due to opioid-related deaths. 

So what’s the problem? Many say using more pharmacist services would cost more money, when, in fact, all indicators point to lower costs. We need look no further than flu vaccines. The immunization fee — which was lower than that paid to physicians — has been the same since it was introduced in 2011. While fees have increased for physicians, fees for pharmacists haven’t changed, meaning that for every flu shot administered by a pharmacist, there is cost savings. There is no sacrifice in the quality of care and accessibility has been greatly improved by having widespread immunization administered by pharmacists.

In part, the problem is old thinking. Despite access to sophisticated technology that enables tele-medicine to work effectively, government seems stuck on out-of-date, bricks and mortar solutions. The BCPhA fully supports the creation of integrated health-care teams that include pharmacists. But there is no reason that should exclude virtual integration of the more than 1,300 community pharmacies across B.C. Surely, the time is long past for some creative approaches to primary care that enables pharmacists to make the contribution they are trained to make. 

This article is featured in The Tablet. The Tablet features pharmacy and industry news, profiles on B.C. pharmacists, information on research developments and new products.