Over the last several months, as the COVID-19 pandemic significantly changed many aspects of health care, pharmacists been developing and evaluating innovative ways to provide care to their patients virtually or with minimal contact. The Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy’s Centre for Practice Excellence (CPE) recently co-hosted an online session with the Ontario Pharmacy Evidence Network (OPEN) featuring speakers from community and specialist pharmacy practices discussing strategies to continue delivering high quality care during the pandemic.
Dr. Onil Bhattacharyya, a senior scientist and family physician at Women’s College Research Institute, set the stage for the session with his keynote presentation, providing an overview of how primary care quickly pivoted to providing virtual care during the pandemic and the tools that providers used to deliver this care.
The first presenters focused on initiatives related to community pharmacy:
- Rui Su and Michelle Yee from MedMe Health described the landscape of virtual care in community practice across Canada. A national survey they conducted of more than 300 community pharmacists suggests that community pharmacies face a number of barriers to implementing virtual care, including a lack of clarity around reimbursement and governance policies as well as a lack of pharmacy-specific integrated tools.
- Di Wang, a clinical pharmacist at Northwest Telepharmacy Solutions, described her team’s experience with virtual medication reviews at a family health team in Northern Ontario. They found that quality medication reviews were achievable in their community, largely because of strong relationships between patients and primary care physicians as well as between physicians and pharmacists.
Presenters also described initiatives in specialty pharmacy practice:
- Stephanie Ong, clinical pharmacist at the University Health Network and assistant professor at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, described a pilot project evaluating a mobile app to help patients with chronic kidney disease connect with clinicians to review their medications. They found that the app reduced the rate of severe medication-related problems in patients by improving communication with clinicians.
- Sandra Veljovic, clinical pharmacist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, described how her team successfully adapted an intervention for chronic pain and opioid use disorder, which had previously only been done in person, to be done at the patient’s home with close monitoring and clinician support.
- Maria Marchese, clinical pharmacist at Sunnybrook Odette Cancer Centre and a student in the Master’s of Science in Pharmacy program, discussed how the oncology pharmacy team at Sunnybrook implemented virtual services at the cancer centre.
- Alia Thawer, lead pharmacist for Sunnybrook’s oral anticancer medication program, shared their program’s initiatives to deliver medications to their patients, including mailing packages, which proved to be unsustainable in the long-term, and a successful curbside pickup program.
The initiatives presented at the CPE session demonstrated a range of innovative solutions to problems presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, but a common theme of the presentations is that they may have value even as in-person services begin to resume, particularly for patients who live in rural or remote locations or who have issues with accessibility. By evaluating and improving these initiatives, pharmacists practicing in range of settings can continue to offer high quality care to patients in person or virtually.
Recordings of each presentation and the full event are available through the CPE webpage.
The CPE offers a variety of educational programs for pharmacy students and practitioners to help fulfill its goal of enhancing patient care and improving outcomes. Its speaker series , set to resume in October, features presentations focused on critical issues in health care and pharmacy, and additional unique educational opportunities will be announced on their webpage soon.
By Eileen Hoftyzer
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