Canada-wide implementation of three pharmacy services could yield cumulative cost savings between $2.5 billion and $25.7 billion over the next 20 years, depending on the level of uptake of these services, according to a new report released today by The Conference Board of Canada. Expanding pharmacy services would translate to direct cost savings for governments and prevent chronic disease and premature deaths.
The report, The Value of Expanded Pharmacy Services in Canada, part of a three-part research series commissioned by the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA), reviews the health and economic impact of three services that are currently delivered within a community pharmacy setting—smoking cessation, advanced medication review for heart disease and pneumococcal vaccination. The research findings provide ample evidence that expanded pharmacy services improve health outcomes and reduce burdens on the broader health care system.
“This report is good news for a cash-strapped healthcare system, governments, payers and ultimately all Canadians,” said Alistair Bursey, Chair, Canadian Pharmacists Association, in a news release. “While we have long understood the health benefits of pharmacist care in interventions such as smoking cessation and cardiovascular disease through past clinical practice research, these findings help to bridge the evidence gap to demonstrate the significant value Canada’s pharmacists can bring to our healthcare system.”
In addition to health and economic gains, a large return on investment is also expected for all three community pharmacy services. By 2035, for every dollar spent, the direct return could reach up to $2.30 for advanced medication review for heart disease, $9.10 for smoking cessation, and $72.00 for pneumococcal vaccination.
Expanding pharmacy services would improve the health of Canadians through chronic disease management, health promotion and prevention, as well as improve access to health services in rural and remote communities. Pharmacists can also help meet the demands of high-needs and vulnerable populations at reduced cost. Pharmacy care means fewer visits to doctors’ offices and emergency rooms, saving healthcare dollars while also improving health outcomes for patients.
“If given the opportunity, community pharmacists could do more to help meet the growing demand for convenient, accessible, and cost-effective health care services,” said Bursey. “The infrastructure for these services already exists; now we must expand pharmacists’ scope of practice and remunerate them appropriately to provide this care across the country.”
Pharmacists are ideally positioned to provide this care: they have the skills, training and expertise to do even more. Community pharmacists are regarded as the most accessible and convenient primary care providers, and by capitalizing on their expertise as medication experts and broadening their scope of practice, they could play an even greater role in ensuring the sustainability of our healthcare system.
A second report, Getting the Most Out of Community Pharmacy: Recommendations for Action, addresses the policy, practice, and research challenges surrounding the expansion of pharmacy services in Canada.
Opportunities to optimize community pharmacy include enhancing evidence and understanding of impact; addressing the perceived challenges associated with legislation and regulation of the profession; creating supportive operating environments; supporting the monitoring and evaluation of pharmacy practice quality standards; and identifying and implementing appropriate funding models for expanded pharmacy practice.
“With an aging population and increasing budget constraints faced by governments, finding cost effective and scalable interventions to manage illness and offering preventative measures, such as immunization for vulnerable groups, are important strategies to help ensure the financial viability of the health care system and the strength of the Canadian economy,” said Louis Thériault, Vice-President, Industry Strategy and Public Policy, The Conference Board of Canada.