Changes to health care system continue with addition of clinical pharmacists

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix has announced funding for new clinical pharmacists.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix has announced funding for new clinical pharmacists. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announced on Tuesday the addition of 50 clinical pharmacists to be integrated into primary-care networks across the province.

The move continues a wave of major changes in the way health care is provided in B.C.

“Fully utilizing the expertise of health professions and creating these new clinical pharmacist positions is another crucial step in establishing patient-centred, team-based care that addresses undermet needs and gaps in care for patients dealing with complex conditions,” Dix said.

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The pharmacists will work directly with patients who have complex conditions to reduce and manage medication-related problems. These issues could include medication side effects, medication duplicators and unneeded medications.

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The new positions will be put in place over three years and will cost the province $23 million in conjunction with University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

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Last month, the province announced hundreds of new family doctors and nurse practitioners will be injected into B.C.’s health system as part of the NDP government’s strategy to improve and modernize primary care. The province will be funding 200 new general practitioners to work in a new “team-based” model.

The province hopes to achieve team-based care through the creation of Primary Care Networks, in which patients can access a range of healthcare options through a streamlined referral process.

The networks are rolling out in five communities to start: Burnaby, Richmond, Comox, Prince George and South Okanagan Similkameen.

Close to 800,000 British Columbians are without a family doctor, including in growing communities like Chilliwack and Prince George.

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The addition of new clinical pharmacists will add to the one-on-one patient care.

“Embedding a clinical pharmacist in a patient’s primary-care team reduces the risk of adverse drug reactions, which rises with the complexity of the condition, a patient’s frailty, age and the number of medications prescribed,” Dix said. “Pharmacists play an important role in managing patients’ care and ensuring their medications are used to best effect.”

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According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, 16.4 per cent of total health spending in Canada in 2017 was on drug expenditures.

UBC will recruit, train and coordinate the clinical pharmacists and evaluate the impact of this developmental program over the next three years.

In an attempt to optimize patient care, the new clinical pharmacists will also work closely with other pharmacy service providers from both health authorities and community pharmacies.

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“Working together with local pharmacists has meant improved care for my patients,” said Dr. Eric Cadesky, president of Doctors of BC. “As physicians, we believe that pharmacists are important members of the health-care team in supporting chronic disease management and ensuring patient safety. When we all work to our scope of practice, we help each other provide the best quality of care for patients.”

Additional statistics from the Canadian Institute for Health Information show that preventable medication-related illness and death in adults costs the Canadian health-care system an estimated $11 billion each year. Emergency department visits and hospital admissions, as a result of adverse medication-related events in Canadian seniors, is estimated to cost $35.7 million each year.

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