Expanded role for pharmacists is an opportunity to offer better patient care

The newly expanded role that pharmacists in Canada now have can benefit both patients and physiciansThe newly expanded role that pharmacists in Canada now have in helping manage the health of patients can benefit both patients and physicians, according to an article in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

 

The article, written by a physician and a pharmacist, summarizes the opportunities for collaborative care and how physicians can work together with pharmacists. Pharmacists in Canada have recently been given broader responsibilities, including in some provinces, prescribing privileges, ability to order and interpret laboratory tests and to vaccinate and inject medications. Pharmacists in other countries such as the United Kingdom, United States and New Zealand are also increasingly involved in collaborative care arrangements.

There is strong evidence that indicates pharmacists' care can benefit patients, especially in providing vaccines and managing high blood pressure, diabetes, heart failure, asthma and other conditions.“As pharmacists more actively participate in medication management tasks, physicians should be aware that in inter-professional models of care, every member of the team is individually accountable for the care he or she provides, and is not to be held directly liable for the acts of others,” write Dr. Cara Tannenbaum, Faculties of Medicine and Pharmacy, Université de Montréal and Dr. Ross Tsuyuki, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta.

As more than 10% of visits to emergency departments are for drug-related problems, collaboration can help reduce the number of drug-drug interactions and avoid visits to emergency. Pharmacists, who have specialized expertise in drug dosing, drug interactions, pharmacology and related areas, can help physicians manage safe prescribing in complex (often elderly) patients taking 5 or more drugs. They can also help in tapering patients off medications.

“Once established, collaborative care with pharmacists will likely yield tremendous benefits to both patients and physicians. The expanding scope of pharmacists' practice offers many opportunities to improve patient care, however, it is also an ongoing process that must be evaluated as regulated activities change, new pharmacists enter practice, and scopes of activities continue to expand,” the authors conclude.

 

Contact for interviews: William Raillant-Clark, International press officer, University of Montreal, tel: 514-343-7593, w.raillant-clark@umontreal.ca for Dr. Cara Tannenbaum.