New landmark study shows Ontario could save more than $143 million by making better use of province's pharmacists

TORONTO, March 6, 2013 /CNW/ - Just in time for Pharmacist Awareness Week, a new study from the Ontario Pharmacists' Association (OPA) has shown that Ontario could realize health system savings of at least $143 million over the next five years by fully implementing and funding pharmacists' authority in five key practice areas - counselling and prescribing for smoking cessation, administering flu vaccinations, adapting patients' drug therapy, renewing prescriptions for stable chronic conditions, and prescribing for minor ailments.

Increasing pharmacy-based services could also help ensure the sustainability of Ontario's publically-funded healthcare system.

"Ontario's healthcare system is facing some unprecedented challenges, not the least of which is the rapidly escalating cost of providing primary care to patients," said Dennis Darby, CEO of OPA. "Our research shows that utilizing pharmacists to the full extent of their scope will not only reduce healthcare costs in the short term, but will also increase system capacity and access to primary healthcare services."

Health system savings
Even after accounting for reasonable compensation to pharmacists, the economic analysis completed by Accenture, which reviewed professional services currently offered and those under consideration in the province, revealed that between 2013 and 2017:

  • expanding the existing Pharmaceutical Opinion Program to include prescriptions that are adapted independently by the pharmacist could yield savings of more than $75.4 million (driven largely by avoided adverse drug events)
  • pharmacy services related to prescribing smoking cessation drugs and counselling patients on strategies to quit smoking could generate savings of up to $49.1 million
  • pharmacists'  renewal of prescription medications for patients with stable chronic conditions could save the government more than $5.6 million
  • introducing a pharmacy-based minor ailments program that addresses nine common minor ailments could save the province more than $12.3 million
  • further integrating pharmacists into the annual influenza immunization program could not only save the provincial government about $500,000 but also increase overall vaccination rates among Ontarians

"The findings show that by expanding pharmacists' scope of services in the five authority areas examined, it is anticipated that further benefits may be realized for all stakeholders," said Sanjay Cherian, Accenture's health industry lead in Canada.

The analysis shows that expanding the scope of services to pharmacists would benefit patients by improving quality of care, while shifting to lower cost providers for certain practice areas.

Increased capacity
The expansion of the Pharmaceutical Opinion Program alone could have an immediate impact on the number of patients utilizing healthcare services as a result of an adverse drug event. Pharmaceutical opinions are offered to identify and resolve drug-related problems such as duplication in a patient's medication therapy, an incorrect dosage, potential drug interactions, or the need for additional drug therapies. In the first year of the program (2011-12), pharmacists provided close to 250,000 pharmaceutical opinions, approximately 75 per cent of which resulted in a change of dose, regimen or method of delivery, or in a refusal-to-fill.

Other expanded services support increased system capacity by diverting non-critical patients away from physicians' offices and emergency departments and reducing wait times for more critical patients. Ultimately, recognizing the full scope of pharmacy services is an important step in transitioning to a patient-centered healthcare system that offers primary care options that are convenient and accessible. Patients have already embraced pharmacists' expanded role - more than 240,000 Ontarians turned to their pharmacist for flu vaccinations during the 2012-13 flu season, the first year this service was available in a pharmacy.

"Ontario's pharmacists already play a vital role on the healthcare team, and we are willing and eager to further support the provincial government in its goal of providing the right care to the right patient at the right place and at the right time," said Billy Cheung, Chair of the Board at OPA. "This report clearly demonstrates that expanded pharmacy professional services stand to have a significant impact on the healthcare system, and we look forward to collaborating with government and other healthcare providers to ensure Ontarians have access to the best possible care."

About the study
Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, was engaged in 2012 to conduct an economic analysis to explore the impact of pharmacists' expanded scope of practice on Ontario's healthcare system and illustrate the qualitative impact of these services on patient health outcomes and health system capacity. The study was completed in January 2013.

About the Ontario Pharmacists' Association
The Ontario Pharmacists' Association is the professional association that represents the views and interests of more than 14,500 pharmacy professionals and pharmacists‐in‐training across the province. The Association works to inspire excellence in the profession and practice of pharmacy, and to promote wellness for patients.

SOURCE: Ontario Pharmacists' Association

For further information:

or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Lindsay George
Manager, Communications and Member Services
416-441-0788 x 4236
lgeorge@opatoday.com

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Ontario Pharmacists' Association

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