From Counting to Communicating: How to Benefit from the Evolving Role of Your Pharmacist

When you have a question about your health or medication, who are you going to call first?

Probably your pharmacist.

Pharmacists consistently rank as one of the most trusted professions by Canadians. They are also the most accessible healthcare providers across the country and are often the first point of contact most Canadians have with the healthcare system.

Most of the questions I receive on a daily basis from my patients are questions about how to take their medications, what the expected side effects are, or how to take care of their health in general. These are questions I encourage all patients to ask. Here’s why:

Canadian medication safety experts have estimated that 98,000 deaths a year are attributed to preventable medical mistakes. That’s more deaths than those due to car accidents, breast cancer, or AIDS.

The Canadian Patient Safety Institute has estimated that over the next 30 years in Canada, within acute and home care settings, there could be approximately 400,000 annual cases of patient safety incidents, costing around $6,800 per patient and requiring an additional $2.75 billion in healthcare treatment costs per year.

The Ontario government attempted to address issues such as this through the establishment and support of the MedsCheck program. Through the MedsCheck program, the Ontario government is providing patients access to professional pharmacists’ knowledge, skills, and expertise.

The MedsCheck program consists of a one-on-one interview between the pharmacist and the patient to review the patient’s prescription and non-prescription medications. This MedsCheck medication review allows patients to better understand their medication therapy and helps to ensure their medications are taken as prescribed. This review can also ensure that patients are getting the most benefit from their medications.

Ideally, if you qualify for MedsCheck, you can set up a free meeting with your pharmacist to discuss what medications you are taking, how they work together, possible side effects, and how to avoid bad interactions.

Unfortunately, numerous barriers to the program’s implementation were identified by community pharmacists in Ontario. Pharmacists who work in a busy day-to-day environment identified that they lacked the time to conduct the MedChecks. They also cited that their daily workflow did not allow them to readily provide this service, which is a 30-minute appointment-based consultation.

I can relate to many of my pharmacist colleagues’ concerns with respect to the difficulty of providing the MedsCheck reviews, particularly if they work in a high-volume retail environment, working long shifts. Not surprisingly, even one of Canada’s most trusted professions can have difficulty implementing a noble program such as the MedsCheck.

The issues with the MedsCheck program have inspirited the rise of clinics such as the Medication Therapy Management (MTM) clinic. The MTM clinic aims to provide medical care that optimizes drug therapy and improves therapeutic outcomes for patients.

In a 45-minute private consultation, we collect information about your lifestyle, disease and medication-related information that can help the identification and prioritization of medication-related problems. We also develop a comprehensive medication list of your prescription and non-prescription products, recognizing that even natural products can result in unsafe interactions with prescription drugs.

During the consultation, we identify any medication-related problem(s) and determine appropriate intervention(s) for resolution. Often, we collaborate with other healthcare professionals to resolve the identified problem(s).

After assessing and identifying medication-related problems, we develop a patient-specific Care Plan. The Care Plan provides you a comprehensive plan of the self-managed actions necessary to track your progress towards your specific health goals. We will assist you in keeping your health goals on track through follow-up consultations.

Pharmacists are called one of Canada’s most-trusted profession for a reason—they are committed, frontline healthcare professionals who are here to help you. If you have any  questions about your medications, or your health in general, don’t hesitate to ask the pharmacist.



Medication, Pharmacist


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