Enterprise news Express Staff
Ontario pharmacists are now encouraged to expand their practice into home visits, medication counselling, flu shots and vaccination, to name a few, as part of the national initiative ‘Healthcare Closer to Home’.
On August 15, MPP Ted Arnott and MPP Randy Pettapiece visited Walsh’s pharmacy in Arthur to discuss the benefits Joe Walsh, local pharmacist, has seen in his patients while providing and enhancing access to care within the Healthcare Closer to Home initiative.
“We (pharmacists) have the ability to come together and help keep people in their homes and healthier longer,” Walsh said.
An important part of the healthcare initiative is to connect pharmacists, like Walsh, with their members of provincial parliament to discuss the benefits of the initiative as well as what can be done to make healthcare more affordable and accessible.
A common concern among all Canadians is the accessibility of our health system in doctor’s offices and wait times in hospitals across the nation. This healthcare initiative has been designed to allow pharmacists to treat minor ailments and administer vaccines. In three years the goal is for the initiative to prevent up to 600,000 ER visits, 1,500 hospitalizations and free up 2.4 million physician hours, nation wide, to allow doctors to focus on more critical care, all by simply broadening the horizon of practices administered by pharmacists.
“This is what I was trained in school for,” Walsh said. “I never took a course on trying to figure out a person’s insurance, counting tablets or answering the phone. What I learned was counselling patients on their medication and that is what we are supposed to be doing.”
The Healthcare Closer to Home initiative has four major ways through which pharmacists can expand their practice and deliver front-line care.
Pharmacists can provide advice through medication counselling and help those suffering from chronic conditions and protect Canadian patients from adverse drug reactions.
It is said that 37 per cent or more than 12 million Canadians are living with chronic conditions.
“I have done, I would say 325 to 400 in home medicine checks, and I have found something wrong in every single one of them,” Walsh said.
With the combined support of physicians and pharmacists, effective treatment can be delivered via medication management. During a counselling session the Pharmacists can offer expert advice on how and when medications can be taken to make medication and therapy most effective.
Walsh told the MPPs about a man he had met on a counselling session who had been washing down his medicines with whiskey and had no idea the health risks that could have occurred.
“He would have never got that information if I hadn’t gone and visited him,” Walsh said.
Flu Shots and Vaccinations
More accessibility to flu shots will mean higher per cent of doses administered. In 2010, flu shots in the United States was 43 per cent of the population, while in Canada it was only 30 per cent. This is because Americans have more access to flu shots at their local pharmacies.
“You get more people vaccinated more quickly, more effectively and that cuts down on the spread of the disease through the population and it also takes strain off of doctors offices,” director of communications for the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores, Allen Austin said.
Walsh expects to administer 200 flu shots this coming season, up from 150 last season.
Minor Diagnosis and Prescribing
Studies show that 15 per cent of all visits to physicians are for minor ailments such as cold sores, dermatitis, hey fever, back pain and minor infections. Patients can wait up to three weeks to see a doctor, while pharmacists with the skill and knowledge may be able to deliver treatment easily and most importantly more efficiently.
Providing pharmacists with the ability to demonstrate to patients how to properly use their medical devices, such as inhalers and epi-pens, will ensure patients are properly taking medication and lower the ricks of emergency healthcare or specialized treatments.
A counselling session can also demonstrate to patients how to make their homes safer and more accessible for wheel chairs, scooters, walkers etc. Pharmacists can go over bathroom safety with the patients on their own schedules and closer to home, in fact sometimes in their own home.
There is a catalog at the Arthur pharmacy that shows 3,000 items, everything from a battery operated jar opener to plates with a lip to make it easier to feed yourself, all that can improve the way of life for someone with mobility issues.
The number of Canadians with diabetes is expected to increase 35 per cent or from 3.1 million to 4.2 million Canadians. Pharmacists can play and essential role in diabetes education and care with wellness counselling.
Pharmacists with expanded scope of practise will better serve patients, providing much needed on-demand access to care, ensuring patients receive the support they need to stay at home and healthy.