The Evolution of the Pharmacist’s Role

The role of pharmacists has not always been considered an essential part of our healthcare system. Luckily the situation has changed for the better. As healthcare professionals, pharmacists’ critical role can no longer be questioned; Pharmacists now have the opportunity to broaden their influence within healthcare to better serve their communicates and society as a whole.

Reasons for Change

Over the last decade many factors have driven the evolution of the pharmacy profession. These include our aging population, technological advances, legislative and billing code modifications to name a few.

The Covid-19 pandemic has irrevocably accelerated profound change within the healthcare industry and pharmacists had to quickly adapt to novel work methods and offer different services to meet demand. These changes undoubtedly resulted in greater recognition for pharmacists by regulatory bodies and the general population.

Patient Care and the Overloaded Healthcare System

Pharmacists are presently deemed the most accessible healthcare professionals playing an integral part of the healthcare model and considered one of the principal actors.

A recent Quebec CROP survey revealed that 93% of participants believe that pharmacists play an essential role in the healthcare system.

Another survey conducted by PureProfile presented that 86% of participants believed that medical appointments should be taken only when absolutely necessary. This entails that pharmacists are crucial in steering patients towards the appropriate healthcare professional for care.

Technological Advances in Pharmacy Services

With the arrival of central fill facilities, pharmacists have experienced a substantial reduction in the time needed to prepare, distribute and manage medications. This has allowed for the emergence of a pharmacy model that is more patient centric and service based.

The manner in which pharmacists communicate with patients has also greatly evolved; Online consultations via telepharmacy service providers as well as online prescription demand have increased exponentially. Several applications are now available to patients looking for the nearest pharmacy and enable direct communication by text and instant messaging. This direct line to pharmacy has helped drive a more connected relationship with patients regardless of location.

The evolution of EMR platforms has also brought greater transparency and optimization between doctors and pharmacists making patient tracking easier and safer as a result.

Regulation and Billing Codes

Across Canada, pharmacists’ scope of practice has been continuously revised and thereupon broadened.

Here are some of the services that are now permitted depending on the province or territory:

  • Renewal of medication for minor conditions that have previously been prescribed to a patient by a doctor (i.e.: mouth ulcers, candidiasis, certain conjunctivitis’, hemorrhoids, vaginitis, UTI, etc.)
  • Modifying a medication dose and therapy
  • Substituting a medication for another deemed more appropriate
  • Prescribing a treatment for shingles and influenza under specific circumstances and recommending a 48-72 hour follow-up with a doctor
  • Prolonging a prescription

Pandemic

During COVID, 31% of people said they were more likely to turn to their pharmacist before seeking out another healthcare provider. An equal number also stated that they will continue with their pharmacist as their primary provider even after the pandemic.

Pharmacists continued to offer services throughout the pandemic while parts of the healthcare system were buckling under unprecedented challenges. There’s been a recognition and reverence of the essential role with respect to prevention, education, screening and vaccination that pharmacy has undertaken.

A survey held by the National Pharmacy Association says that 89% of participants believe that pharmacists played a central role in managing the pandemic.

The Impact of Pharmacists

A pharmacist’s scope of practice partially includes:

  • Advising on an array of health circumstances and recommending suited therapies
  • Managing drug therapy
  • Educating patients on lifestyle choices and therapies
  • Monitoring chronic illness evolution
  • Watching for possible interaction risks
  • Considering the side effects of certain drugs on patient health and quality of life
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