You may see your pharmacist regularly as well as visit a variety of other healthcare professionals on an ongoing basis. But do you know how these professionals – those who make up your healthcare team – work together to provide you with safe and effective care?
Pharmacists are drug therapy experts with in-depth knowledge and specialized training in hundreds of medications (1). This makes them highly qualified to play a key role in helping you maximize your health outcomes and ensure the medications you are taking are safe and effective for you and your condition(s).
Pharmacists can play an important role on your healthcare team, working collaboratively with other practitioners to help make sure you benefit from the best treatment results.
As the registering and regulating body for the profession of pharmacy in Ontario, our mandate is to serve and protect the public and hold the province’s pharmacists and pharmacy technicians accountable to established legislation, Standards of Practice, Code of Ethics and policies and guidelines relevant to pharmacy practice.
One way we support the delivery of quality and safe pharmacy care is by helping you understand the key responsibilities and expectations of pharmacy professionals and how they fit into your healthcare team.
1. Offer ongoing guidance, recommendations, monitoring, and support
Pharmacists can collaborate with your prescribers on evaluating the effectiveness of your medication. This can be especially useful if you have a chronic condition and/or complex or high-risk medication regimen.
In fact, under the Model Standards of Practice for Canadian Pharmacists, pharmacists are required to work constructively with their peers and members of your healthcare team, including referring you to appropriate team members when appropriate. All registered pharmacists in Ontario are expected to diligently practice to these standards.
Pharmacists can work with you and your healthcare team to develop care plans designed to help you achieve your treatment goals through optimal medication therapy. Collaboratively, a plan can be developed that is practical and beneficial for you and your lifestyle. The plan can involve elements to make it easy to take and remember to take your medication, such as compliance packaging and ongoing reminders/ follow-ups.
And pharmacists can play a significant role in in helping with chronic disease management and prevention (2). They can suggest medication that is ideal for you and your condition and propose options that may be more effective. They can also consult with your prescriber(s) to make recommendations to increase, decrease, or change a medication dosage to best meet your needs and achieve your desired medication outcomes.
Moreover, as the medication therapy expert on your healthcare team, your pharmacist can help ensure you progress as intended during your stay at the hospital and, once home, properly follow your medication plan, avoiding potential emergency department visits or readmissions to the hospital.
2. Answer questions and concerns about your medication regimen
In addition to providing a medication review, which is where your pharmacist reviews all of the medications you are taking and explains how to take them properly, your pharmacist can be a great resource to answer questions and concerns. As the member of your healthcare team with the most complete drug therapy knowledge, they can also explain:
- Key therapeutic benefits of your medication that you should expect to see
- Common side effects of your medication and how to best manage those side effects
- What to do if you accidently take too much of your medication or forget to take a dose
- The ideal way to store your medication
- Food, beverages, other medications, or natural health products to avoid while taking your medication
You should expect that your pharmacist can provide helpful advice and information about the above and collaborate with your other healthcare providers when and where appropriate. Under their Standards of Practice, pharmacists in Ontario are required to respond to your questions, use effective verbal, non-verbal, listening and written communication skills, and demonstrate sensitivity, respect and empathy.
Under the standards, pharmacists are also required to listen to you as a patient and respect your views about your health and medications, give you the information you need to make an informed decision about your care in a way that you understand, and pass on information to other professionals within your health team where appropriate while maintaining confidentiality.
3. Prevent drug interactions and medication errors
Pharmacists can flag negative drug interactions, which is when one or more of your medications affect how the other medications you are taking work (3). You may have an existing medical condition or allergy, or may be consuming a particular type of food, vitamin, or natural health product that could cause a negative interaction with your prescription. Your pharmacist can help to spot these potential negative interactions at the pharmacy. They can also flag errors on your prescription, such as the wrong specified dosage or medicine for your age, weight, and condition.
The Standards of Practice require your pharmacist to review your prescription to ensure that it is most appropriate for you and your condition, and this includes checking for significant drug interactions and adverse effects as well as making sure that the dose and instructions for use of the medication are correct. And they are required to rectify medication-therapy problems that pose risks to you as a patient.
In addition, all Ontario pharmacists must adhere to their Code of Ethics, which requires them to use their professional judgment to make every reasonable and conscientious effort to prevent harm to patients and society. This includes providing you with relevant and sufficient information regarding any potential harms they have identified and the most frequent and serious side effects associated with your medication.
Pharmacists play a key role on your healthcare team and can make a lasting impact in maximizing your health outcomes and helping you to achieve your treatment goals in a safe and effective manner. While the different healthcare professionals on your team each bring their own expertise to the table, they can work collaboratively with one another so you benefit from optimal treatment results.
- Ontario Pharmacists Association. How Pharmacists Help. Retrieved at https://www.opatoday.com/how-your-pharmacist-helps/home
- Ontario Pharmacy Evidence Network (OPEN). Pharmacy in the 21st Century. February 2019. Retrieved at https://www.open-pharmacy-research.ca/wp-content/uploads/Future-of-Pharmacy-White-Paper-REVISED-for-posting-Jan-2019.pdf
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Drug Interactions: What You Should Know. September 2013. Retrieved at https://www.fda.gov/drugs/resources-you-drugs/drug-interactions-what-you-should-know