The Expanding Role Of Pharmacists In Canadian Healthcare

Vijay Wadhawan

The healthcare landscape has been changing rapidly in recent years as increased access to information online has placed more and more decision-making power in the hands of patients and patients are getting healthcare advice from an increasing number of channels. We recently wrote about the trend of Canadian patients looking more and more to the Internet for their healthcare advice, but there is another hugely important source of healthcare information in Canada — pharmacists.

Data from a survey that we recently conducted indicates that 4 in 10 Canadians have consulted with their pharmacists on health issues. For comparison, 7 in 10 had consulted a doctor but only 1 in 10 had consulted with an alternative healthcare provider such as a chiropractor or a naturopath. That same survey also noted that pharmacists ranked second, only behind physicians, as Canada’s most preferred source of information on health issues.

4 in 10 Canadians have consulted with their pharmacists on health issues.

Because we’ve been closely tracking and analyzing the health and wellness industry in Canada for decades, our team is able to compare this data with our own proprietary value-based databases of patient and physician behaviours. By doing this we are able to drill down the specific attitudes and behaviours that lead to this trust for pharmacists.

Comparing these results with PatientConnect™, our proprietary social values segmentation of patient attitudes and behaviours in Canada, we find that the patients most likely to trust their pharmacists for healthcare advice fall into a segment we refer to as Responsible Proactives. These patients are better educated, more affluent Canadians. Their orientation to health is marked by a desire to make full and smart use of the traditional healthcare delivery system while keeping control of healthcare decisions in their own hands.

Our patient data also indicate high levels of trust for pharmacists among those managing chronic conditions, especially seniors. It’s likely that this trust is the result of the increased contact with pharmacists that these conditions often necessitate. This is further confirmed by data that show the more patients interact with pharmacists, the more they trust them.

Patient attitudes toward pharmacists in Canada are not the only thing that is changing. So has the debate surrounding the role that pharmacists should be playing in the overall healthcare system. A recent trial from the EPICORE Centre at the University of Alberta found that pharmacists who identified and treated patients with dyslipidemia, including those with inadequately controlled LDL cholesterol levels, outperformed physicians when it came to getting patients to goal.

Many would argue that results like these should contribute to building an expanded role for pharmacists in the healthcare system in Canada, but the debate continues. Currently, Quebec allows its pharmacists to re-prescribe medications previously prescribed by physicians, while Alberta has taken this a step further, allowing their pharmacists to prescribe medications for a wide range of chronic illnesses.

While Alberta may currently be the lone province in Canada to hand pharmacists this type of prescribing power, Canada’s entire healthcare system is increasing the role pharmacists play in in the process. This sits especially well among those physicians who see themselves as one member of a larger healthcare team. We refer to these physicians as Networkers and, according to our MDConnect values-based physician database, approximately one-third of Canadian physicians fall into this segment. Not only that, but Networkers are the fastest growing physician segment in Canada.

There is no doubt that pharmacists will play an expanding role in treatment decisions and the delivery of those treatments. At Environics we not only have a deep understanding of pharmacists and their role in the healthcare landscape, but can also help guide build out your pharmacy strategy with our proprietary MDConnect™ and PatientConnect™ tools to ensure success of your pharmacy initiative programs.

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