Eas­ing over­crowd­ing

“Phar­ma­cists are un­der­uti­lized,” says prof

Waterloo Region Record - - Front Page - JOHANNA WEIDNER jwei­d­[email protected]­cord.com Twit­ter: @Wei­d­nerRecord

Phar­ma­cists could help taxed emer­gency rooms, study finds

WATER­LOO — Giv­ing phar­ma­cists added au­thor­ity to treat mi­nor ail­ments could ease over­crowd­ing in On­tario’s emer­gency de­part­ments, ac­cord­ing to a new Univer­sity of Water­loo study.

Re­searchers found that al­most one-third of non-ur­gent emer­gency vis­its in On­tario could po­ten­tially be man­aged by phar­ma­cists with an ex­panded scope of prac­tice that is al­lowed in other parts of Canada.

“Phar­ma­cists are able and ea­ger to help,” said Prof. Wasem Alsab­bagh of UW’s School of Phar­macy. “One out of three un­nec­es­sary vis­its, we can care for them in phar­macy.”

Emer­gency depart­ment wait times are a com­plex is­sue, and Alsab­bagh cau­tioned that al­low­ing phar­ma­cists to do more wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily re­duce wait times. But they could pro­vide more timely care for pa­tients who shouldn’t be go­ing to the emer­gency depart­ment.

Phar­ma­cists could be sta­tioned in hos­pi­tals or sim­ply of­fer the care in phar­ma­cies. Phar­macy tech­ni­cians can now do more, free­ing up a phar­ma­cist’s time for clin­i­cal care once they have the re­quired train­ing.

“Phar­ma­cists are un­der­uti­lized,” Alsab­bagh said. “At the same time, we have a strain on the health-care re­sources.”

Phar­ma­cists have been ex­pand­ing the ser­vices they pro­vide in Canada over the past decade, al­though there is a wide range of what’s al­lowed.

“It varies from prov­ince to prov­ince,” Alsab­bagh said.

For in­stance in Al­berta, phar­ma­cists have been able to pre­scribe for mi­nor ail­ments, re­new pre­scrip­tions and ad­min­is­ter in­jec­tions since 2017.

On­tario, Alsab­bagh said, has been “very cau­tious and slow” and the scope of al­lowed prac­tice re­mains very lim­ited. Phar­ma­cists here were al­lowed to re­new pre­scrip­tions and give flu shots in 2012, and more vac­cines were added in 2016.

The re­searchers an­a­lyzed data from 2010 to 2017, look­ing at all On­tario hos­pi­tal emer­gency cases based on stan­dard scales that mea­sure sever­ity. Phar­ma­cists with an ex­panded scope could have po­ten­tially han­dled nearly 1.5 mil­lion cases.

Com­mon emer­gency cases that could be man­aged by a phar­ma­cist in­clude skin con­di­tions, a cough or blad­der in­fec­tion.

Alsab­bagh said in­creas­ing pub­lic aware­ness will play a key role, but the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of flu shots at phar­ma­cies points to in­creas­ing com­fort with turn­ing to phar­ma­cists for care be­cause it’s con­ve­nient.

Re­sults from the re­search — un­der­taken with UW as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor Sher­i­lyn Houle and re­cently pub­lished in the jour­nal Re­search in So­cial and Ad­min­is­tra­tive Phar­macy — were passed along to the On­tario Phar­ma­cists As­so­ci­a­tion.

Ex­pand­ing what phar­ma­cists are able to do could help pa­tients while re­liev­ing stress on health care sys­tem.

“Phar­ma­cists have shown they’re more than ea­ger to do this care.”

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