Denise Carpenter has spent her entire career working on behalf of Canadian organizations in the public policy, communications and governance arenas. She has led many initiatives to build policy directions that benefit Canadians, as well as the organizations and institutions that serve them.
By Jane Auster
Photography by Brandon Gray
As president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores since January 2013, she has been searching for new ways to tell the story of how pharmacies are making a difference in their neighbourhoods. A new CACDS initiative – Healthcare Closer to Home – promises to shine new light on pharmacies as vital healthcare hubs and pharmacists as healthcare champions.
When you hear the phrase “Healthcare Closer to Home,” what comes to your mind?
It’s very natural when you are talking about pharmacy: it’s in your neighbourhood, where you live, where you work, where you play. The pharmacy is playing much more of a key role in the whole team of healthcare providers. Healthcare Closer to Home is an opportunity to talk about what we’re doing, to continue to build the value of pharmacists in our pharmacies for Canadians across the country.
What is the thinking behind Healthcare Closer to Home?
It’s time for pharmacies to tell their stories and to shout out loud. Pharmacists are rightly proud of what they are doing, as expanded scope of practice takes off, and they are the frontline healthcare delivery team.
Most importantly, Healthcare Closer to Home is not a one-time program, it’s an opportunity to share the stories, and an opportunity for our pharmacists to stand up and be proud of what they do every day. And when our stakeholders see this, they are going to continue to support and promote expanded scope of practice and pharmacy services.
What is the purpose of Healthcare Closer to Home?
There are really three main purposes:
- To position neighbourhood pharmacies as “go-to” primary healthcare destinations in the minds of Canadians.
- To increase political understanding of, and belief in, the benefits of expanded capacity for neighbourhood pharmacy, and to show that we have the capacity, the advanced services, and the expertise within neighbourhoods.
- To increase neighbourhood pharmacy and pharmacist awareness and understanding of, and support for, increased scope of practice and capacity.
Like any other industry, we want to shout out loud about our services and capabilities. We want to tell those stories. Stakeholders across Canada are seeing the value of what neighbourhood pharmacy can do – for individual patients and for the whole healthcare delivery system – so it’s important that we reach legislators, regulators and opinion leaders with these stories
With the name Healthcare Closer to Home, are you trying to convey convenience as well as expertise?
Absolutely, convenience. During my working day, I can call in my refills, drop in on my way home, get my flu shot, pick up my prescriptions, walk down the aisle to pick up other items on my list, and then head home.
In neighbourhood pharmacies in many provinces, the pharmacist can prescribe for minor ailments. With a neighbourhood pharmacist and expanded scope of practice (like prescribing for minor ailments), you get both the professional assessment and the solution at the same time, in the same place. That’s convenient.
The point is, neighbourhood pharmacy fits into your daily routine. It doesn’t have to be something separate, or about making make an appointment for three weeks out. Convenience and accessibility are essential. We want Canadians to see their pharmacy healthcare services as part of their daily lives.
They can have access to primary healthcare services where and when it’s convenient for them.
Canadians have a growing respect for the role of pharmacies and pharmacists as their go-to healthcare professionals. Do you think awareness is increasing?
Canadians do have a growing respect for pharmacies and pharmacists. But we also have choices when it comes to meeting our healthcare needs. Neighbourhood pharmacies offer an outstanding convenience proposition, but I think our pharmacies and pharmacists can’t take Canadians’ trust and respect for granted, and have to work hard every day to maintain their relationships with patients.
Let’s say I come in to pick up prescriptions for my family. My pharmacist can also ask me about flu shots, and on the next visit the pharmacist might say, ‘I notice you haven’t refilled your prescription.’ With a continuing relationship of trust, the pharmacist is going to help me and my family stay well, and then we have built a full cycle with the pharmacist and the family.
Adherence to medications is one of our great healthcare challenges, particularly with our rapidly aging population, and it’s one of the areas where neighbourhood pharmacy can have the greatest positive impact, both for individuals and for the whole healthcare system.
How is the fact that more Canadians are seeking out pharmacies for their healthcare needs helping the overall healthcare system?
The “healthcare closer to home” approach offered by pharmacies frees physicians to address more serious, complex and urgent conditions.
And there are significant cost benefits, because the patient in pharmacy is being seen by the best-suited – and most appropriate cost – provider. How often have we heard stories of patients going to the ER for a minor complaint that could have been handled far more efficiently by the local pharmacy?
What will constitute a “win” for you with Healthcare Closer to Home? How will you measure its success?
In several ways:
- Increasing awareness of the value of neighbourhood pharmacy to the healthcare system among legislative and regulatory bodies across Canada.Enhancing the opportunities for Canadian pharmacists to tell their story about expanded scope of practice.
- Seeing more Canadians go to neighbourhood pharmacies for their primary healthcare service needs.
- Increasing interest on the part of media and other stakeholders in the expanding role of pharmacists.
With this initiative we have a great opportunity to contribute to the evolution of healthcare in Canada and ensuring that Canadians have continuing access to quality, affordable healthcare. I am proud to be part of that. Telling this story is so important.