Marc’s Posts

March 2010

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Pharmacists are Canada’s most accessible health professionals.

Thursday, March 25, 2010 @ 10:03 AM

Pharmacists are Canada’s most accessible health professionals and play an important role in promoting, maintaining and improving the health of the communities they serve.   Health promotion is now firmly on Ontario’s healthcare agenda and there is both an opportunity and a need for community pharmacists to become more involved in delivering public health services.

Every day Ontario pharmacists work as advocates for health. They support self help. They are local and accessible and provide patients with important health advice.  Pharmacists promote health not just by advising on the proper use of medicine but also by counseling patients in areas such as diet, sexual health, and reducing tobacco and alcohol consumption.

Health spending is increasing at a rate far greater than other provincial government spending. As the population ages and the prevalence of chronic conditions increases the growth in new diagnoses for chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and arthritis actually exceeds Ontario’s population growth. The increase in diagnoses of chronic conditions is a key driver of health spending growth in Ontario.

As front-line health care providers, Ontario pharmacists are uniquely positioned to help the Ontario government achieve its objectives to improve health outcomes and control costs in our healthcare system. By helping patients comply with treatment regimens, by providing counseling on lifestyle changes, by helping to reduce the complications associated with chronic conditions and by ensuring symptoms are properly managed, Ontario pharmacists can make a big difference in improving the health of Ontarians.

Patient health management is a health care intervention that allows patients to be more involved in managing their own health outcomes. By engaging in patient health management both public and private health insurers can commit healthcare resources to keep people well and to manage diseases and conditions in a manner that avoids the costly complications associated with chronic conditions. Effective patient health management programs contain health costs by reducing the need for other more costly health care interventions. It also helps the elderly maintain independence and keeps our aging population as healthy as possible through prevention, early detection, and proper management of symptoms.

Physicians know what needs to be done to provide appropriate care consistent with clinical practice guidelines, but often lack the tools, the resources, or the time to do it. Pharmacy-based patient health management addresses this issue with significant health care delivery advantages. Involving patients in their own health management increases the patient’s sense of ownership and control (patient centered care). Patients are able to remain healthy, active & productive members of society for longer through greater disease control. There is increased compliance and adherence to treatment and, with improved patient health outcomes health care costs are contained.

In many jurisdictions pharmacists are recognized as key members of primary care teams. In the United Kingdom, the Department of Health recently launched a program for pharmaceutical public health by publishing Choosing Health Through Pharmacy. The U.K Minister of Health describes this as “a commitment to publish a strategy for pharmaceutical public health in 2005 which will expand the contribution that pharmacists, their staff and the premises in which they work can make to improving health and reducing health inequalities.” In North Carolina, the City of Asheville took a proactive approach to contain its rapidly rising employee health costs by instituting a pharmacy-driven patient health management program that was so successful in improving health outcomes and containing costs that it is now being replicated in major cities across the country

Community pharmacists in Ontario are ready, willing and able to increase their involvement and contribution to public health in collaboration with government, physicians and other health professionals.   Pharmacist-based patient health management can achieve better health outcomes. The results are healthier patients, and more cost-effective use of precious health care resources.

- Marc Kealey

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