Family doctors, pharmacist collaboration leads to better health outcomes

11/09/2015

Family doctors play an essential role in the health of Canadians, and Family Doctor Week in Canada celebrates the outstanding contributions made by these dedicated professionals to the health of their patients.

According to the College of Family Physicians of Canada, family medicine is best described as “personal, comprehensive, continuous care.” In practice, that means that family doctors identify and recognize the patient’s needs throughout all the stages of life and view their health in a holistic manner.

Over time, the ongoing relationships between family doctors and their patients make it possible to develop a thorough patient and family history. This deeper knowledge is proven to contribute to more accurate diagnosis and effective treatment, leading to better health outcomes.

It also means your doctor can know more about you as an individual, including your treatment and lifestyle preferences. For example, if your doctor knows that your family eats a strictly vegetarian diet, he or she is more likely to spot symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency in one of your children. If your father and grandfather both developed early heart disease, your family doctor is likely to suggest monitoring your cholesterol levels starting at age 40 rather than the typically suggested age of 50.

Collaboration and effective communication between family doctors and pharmacists is a growing trend that also leads to better health outcomes.

Canadian pharmacy’s proactive approach creates better health outcomes

The role of family doctors and pharmacists is complementary, and the role of the pharmacist is expanding in primary care. Until quite recently, for example, a pharmacist would have to call a patient’s doctor to get authorization for something as simple as providing a liquid rather than a capsule when a patient couldn’t swallow the pill. As a result, therapy was often delayed because the doctor might not be available, and the doctor’s time with patients was needlessly interrupted.

Today, pharmacists can consult with patients to make basic changes to prescriptions, such as switching a liquid to a capsule, a salve to a cream, or asking the patient if they prefer a generic equivalent to a brand medicine. When patients have been using a treatment for an extended period of time but haven’t been able to see their doctor for a refill prescription, pharmacists can also issue a full repeat if necessary to avoid a gap in treatment.

The new scope of pharmacist practice currently varies from province to province, often driven by the health-care needs of a particular region. In Nova Scotia, for example, appropriately trained pharmacists can diagnose and prescribe for minor ailments, a necessity in communities where the nearest open clinic might be 200 kilometres away.

Read: The evolution of the pharmacy professional leads to better health outcomes

The result is faster treatment that saves patients time, and in the case of acute treatment such as antibiotics for infection, can save lives.

The College of Pharmacists is currently working with Canada’s provincial health-care regions to review the success of the various provincial measures and to develop a national program.

By working together, Canada’s health-care professionals are making timely treatment more accessible, leading to better health outcomes.

Read: A day in the life of an Express Scripts Canada pharmacist

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