Pharmacists play an essential role as members of the Primary Care Network health team

    EDMONTON, Sept. 4 /CNW/ - In Alberta, the face of primary care,
front-line health delivery, continues to change with more than 50 pharmacists
now working in Primary Care Networks (PCNs) alongside physicians, nurses and
other health care providers.
    This change is largely the result of a $4 million Integrating Pharmacists
into Primary Care Networks pilot project started in April 2006 and funded by
the Primary Care Initiative, the provincial program that provides support and
funding for PCNs. While most of the funds have now been allocated, the pilot
project continues until March 2009.
    This groundbreaking approach to primary care delivery was made possible
by the trilateral agreement between Alberta Health and Wellness, Alberta
Medical Association and Alberta Health Services.
    In a PCN, a group of family doctors work with the local health region and
other health care professionals to coordinate the delivery of primary health
services for their patients.
    Melissa Dechaine, a pharmacist practicing for 14 years works for the St.
Albert & Sturgeon PCN in the Edmonton area. She started with the PCN in 2006
and describes her time as "absolutely fulfilling" although she does admit at
times it's a bit like riding a roller coaster.
    Once a week she works in a Geriatric clinic doing medication reviews with
patients and working closely with the specialist physician geriatrician and
    "Today, the different medications available for elderly people and other
patients can dramatically improve a person's quality of life," explains
Dechaine. However, with many of these medications she says, they also pose a
danger if not properly taken and managed. Dechaine enjoys the opportunity to
teach patients about the medication they've been prescribed.
    She is also involved in many educational programs such as helping to
teach a Healthy Heart class with a dietitian and nurse and a Boosting Your
Memory class with an occupational therapist and other health professionals.
Part of Dechaine's work at one of the clinics is to monitor anticoagulation
patients and to teach about a commonly used "blood thinner" called Warfarin.
    In the Chinook PCN, Pat Manderville is the PCN team leader for the
pharmacy pilot project. There are currently nine pharmacists working part time
in clinics in the Chinook PCN. As well, another pharmacist has been working in
the Pincher Creek clinic for a few years now, funded outside of the pilot
    "When we received funding from the pharmacy pilot project, we ran an ad
in the local newspapers to gauge the interest level of pharmacists for working
in the Chinook PCN," says Manderville. We received 15 responses, an
overwhelming response."
    What we continually hear from our pharmacists who are now working in the
PCN is that they love it," she says. "They tell us that what they always
wanted to do is to be a clinical pharmacist, that is work and educate
    Similar to the St. Albert & Sturgeon PCN, pharmacists in Chinook are
recognized members of the PCN clinic teams and work in managing complex cases,
chronic disease management, and such initiatives as the Building Health
Lifestyles Program.
    Manderville points out that a relatively new treatment approach, Group
Visits, is one area where pharmacists are making a real difference. "When we
have a large group of patients who have the same health condition, such as
diabetes, we have found real success in bringing them all together to discuss
common issues and treatments," she points out. "The physician leads the group
visits and involves the pharmacists in getting patients' diabetes under
control through medication."
    Dr. Jim Bell, a family physician in the St. Albert & Sturgeon PCN, sees
real benefits of involving pharmacists as members of the PCN health care team.
    "They are essential for a multidisciplinary team in family medicine," he
says. "Having the pharmacist has allowed us to more closely review patients on
multiple medications and provide education." And for Dr. Bell, "pharmacists in
PCNs are resources that save physicians' time, but more importantly, we can
look at new programs that improve patient care."

    Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are a made-in-Alberta approach to improve
the delivery of primary care. A Primary Care Network is formed when a group of
physicians and Alberta Health Services agree to work together to provide
enhanced primary care services. In addition to physicians, other health
professionals are key partners in delivering PCN services. Alberta Health and
Wellness, Alberta Medical Association and Alberta Health Services are partners
in the development of Primary Care Networks.

For further information:

For further information: Leslie Beard, ((780) 952-2033), Or Primary Care
Initiative Office, Toll Free: 1-866-714-5724

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