In November, we gathered pharmacy association leaders, chain store executives, payers, manufacturers and pharmacists in the trenches of everyday practice for the Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy’s annual Pharmacy Forum. The goal was to spend the day engaging in frank discussions about the future of the profession.
By Dayle Acorn
While most would agree that pharmacy is at a crossroads, the Forum’s participants set out to consider whether we were headed for a full-out “pharmageddon.” The jury’s still out on that answer, but insightful conversations ensued around what needs to be done to avoid a derailment of the profession.
As our moderator, University of Toronto’s Zubin Austin, so aptly noted: Community pharmacists may have finally reached the point where they can play a meaningful role in the healthcare system, but their days are more stressful and precarious than ever waiting for what’s coming down the political pipeline.
Speaker Mark Burdon of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee in the United Kingdom relayed a stark picture of what can happen when government isn’t onside and pharmacy goes off course. He cautioned against separating distribution from pharmacy services and it’s a warning worth heeding.
Since healthcare reform began in 2006, pharmacy owners have been looking to cut operating costs to make up for lost revenue. But rather than looking to pharmacists as an investment to grow the business, they’ve been targeted as an expense worth cutting. The result has been leaner operations, but at what cost? Without pharmacists, pharmacies run the risk of becoming a pure commodity that can be satisfied by a central-fill machine, not unlike what is being floated in the U.K.
As owners and managers continue to look for ways to cut and justify expenses around expanded services, they can’t lose sight of what they’re ultimately gaining from their pharmacists: a critical link to the patient that will drive loyalty, improve patient care and grow their businesses.
While we wait for political agendas to roll out across the country around pharmacists’ scope, we could be doing much more to prepare for what’s coming. CFP is proud to play a part in helping researchers fund studies that are proving the value of pharmacists – data that payers and government will inevitably look to for future funding considerations. But it’s not enough. There are already plenty of missed opportunities with pharmacy services like Meds Checks and Pharmaceutical Opinions, and without the uptake there is a real risk that payers and government will eventually go on to the next “shiny thing.”
Without a serious shift in mindset and direction, the efforts of pharmacies are akin to “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” with similar results. Developing a workplace more conducive to pharmacy services is a must – with the tools and resources made available to pharmacists so they can embrace their new scope to its full potential.
Pharmacists, too, have to be up for the task. Those who aren’t willing to offload technical duties to technicians and embrace their new roles are part of the problem. It’s simple: if pharmacists don’t step up and fill more pharmacy services, they will lose their coveted role as the most accessible healthcare providers. Working together to train and support them to embrace change will be critical in moving the profession forward – before disaster strikes.
Dayle Acorn is Executive Director of the Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy (www.cfpnet.ca), a registered charity dedicated to supporting innovation and leadership to advance the profession of pharmacy.