Practice Assessments

In 2015, the College introduced enhancements to the way it assesses pharmacy professionals by transitioning to practice assessments for community pharmacists. In January 2019, the College launched practice assessments for community and hospital pharmacy technicians. Practice assessments for hospital, family health team, and long-term care pharmacists will be piloted in the Fall of 2020, with an official launch anticipated in January 2021.

A practice assessment is an evaluation of an individual pharmacist’s or pharmacy technician’s performance. The practice assessment occurs in the place of practice with a College practice advisor. Practice assessments are separate and distinct from a pharmacy assessment.

For the purpose of scheduling a practice assessment, Part A Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians are required to identify a place of practice in Ontario where they are providing direct patient care. This is called a Designated Practice Assessment (DPA) Site, and may be the same, or different, then their primary place of practice.

It is imperative that the Designated Practice Assessment (DPA) Site is updated if it has changed. Registrants are now able to change their DPA site at any time online. It’s important to ensure this information is up-to-date as the College and Practice Advisors depend on the accuracy of this information to facilitate your practice assessment in the location where you provide direct patient care.

Practice assessments of pharmacists support their role as medication experts and clinical decision-makers, and are consistent in approach to assessments of other primary healthcare practitioners. Practice assessments of pharmacy technicians support their role related to the technical elements of prescription and patient information and of product and drug distribution within the pharmacy or organization.

Practice assessments are a critical component of quality assurance. The transition to assessments at the individual’s place of practice reflects evolving public and patient expectations that the College regularly engages with pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to ensure that safe and appropriate patient care is being provided.

Ultimately, quality assurance activities are designed to help pharmacy professionals identify areas for improvement in their practice so that they can develop, maintain and enhance their skills and knowledge to support better patient health outcomes.

What Happens During a Practice Assessment?

During a practice assessment, practice advisors use the practice assessment criteria to evaluate a registrant’s practice.

Throughout and following the assessment, the practice advisor provides feedback outlining areas of practice where the pharmacy professional is doing well and meeting standards as well as areas where there is an opportunity for improvement. They offer support through coaching and conversation, pointing out opportunities to enhance practice, probing the thinking behind certain actions and decisions, and indicating where to access helpful resources. With an emphasis on educating, the goal of the practice assessments is to increase adherence to practice standards, help pharmacy professionals use their full scope, and ultimately support optimal health outcomes.

If the pharmacy professional does not meet the standards indicated on their first assessment, they are given the opportunity to spend time with a quality assurance (QA) coach. This coach is not a College staff member, but rather a peer who can provide support specifically in areas where there is room for improvement. This half-day interactive session is designed to enhance the professional’s practice and the care that is provided to patients. Following the session with the QA coach, the pharmacy professional will be reassessed by a separate practice advisor.

If there are still significant areas of practice that require improvement following this second assessment, a QA assessment will take place and the results will be sent to the QA Committee for consideration. The QA Committee may provide recommendations to help the professional meet standards by identifying appropriate remediation, always recognizing that patient safety is the first priority.

With an emphasis on education, the goal of the practice assessments is to increase adherence to practice standards, help pharmacy professionals practice to their full scope, and ultimately support optimal health outcomes. The results of a practice assessment are confidential and are not shared with employers, owners, colleagues or any College committee, other than the QA Committee.

Community Pharmacist Assessment Criteria

During a community pharmacist practice assessment, practice advisors focus on four key areas (categories):

  • Patient assessment
  • Decision making
  • Documentation
  • Communication and education

Through a combination of observation and retrospective review of documentation (chart stimulated recall) practice advisors evaluate the processes in place for each of these areas with respect to new and refill prescriptions, adaptations/renewals, comprehensive medication reviews and patient interactions related to over the counter medications.

Hospital, Family Health Team, and Long-Term Care Pharmacist Assessment Criteria

During a hospital, family health team, and long-term care pharmacist practice assessment, practice advisors focus on four key areas (categories):

  • Patient assessment
  • Decision making
  • Documentation
  • Communication and education

Through a combination of observation and retrospective review of documentation (chart stimulated recall) practice advisors evaluate the processes in place for each of these areas with respect to the work up of newly admitted/rostered patients, medication reconciliation, new medication orders, provision of ongoing care, drug information, and patient education.

Practice assessments for hospital, family health team, and long-term care pharmacists will be piloted in the Fall of 2020, with an official launch anticipated in January 2021.

Pharmacy Technician Assessment Criteria

During a community and hospital pharmacy technician practice assessment, practice advisors focus on the following four key areas (categories):

  • Patient Care Support Activities
  • Collaboration and decision making
  • Documentation
  • Communication and education

Through a combination of observation and retrospective review of documentation (chart stimulated recall) practice advisors evaluate the processes in place for each of these areas with respect to drug distribution activities, compounding practices, best possible medication histories and patient education activities.

Next Steps

Practice assessments are now in place for pharmacists practicing in community pharmacy, with over 6,000 assessments having already taken place. It is anticipated that assessment standards for pharmacists practicing in hospital and other healthcare settings will follow in 2020. Assessments of pharmacy technicians in community and hospital settings were piloted in the fall of 2018 and launched in January 2019.

Due to public health measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the College will conduct the majority of operational and practice assessments through comprehensive virtual meeting formats (remote video assessments) until further notice. College advisors will continue to thoroughly assess pharmacies and registrants against all established relevant standards; in-person assessments will be conducted on a case-by-case basis. Read our “Information About Remote Assessments” news post to learn more.