U of T Explores the Pharmacy of the Future

Pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare professionals in Canada, dispensing and providing advice on 600 million prescriptions a year, according to the Canadian Pharmacists Association. Drug therapy management is a key function of pharmacists but in recent years, there has been significant evolution in scope and role for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. With governments of all levels calling for better integration across healthcare, it is likely the role of pharmacists will continue to expand.

Experts from the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy are gearing up to investigate the many opportunities of an expanded role by exploring the possibility of developing a new accredited pharmacy at U of T’s downtown Toronto campus.

While part of the plan is to create a space for U of T students to access services such as drug therapy management, travel vaccines, and flu shots, “this will not be your typical pharmacy with four walls and a counter,” said Heather Boon, dean of the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy. “We want to elevate the profession of pharmacy to meet the challenges of the future and U of T is the perfect place to do this. We have top leaders across multiple sectors, from healthcare and tech innovation to architecture and design, who could all contribute and benefit from this project. This is the perfect place to build a living lab focused on improving the health of our communities.”

Working in coordination with the student Health and Wellness Centre, this project will offer an enriched student-learning environment where, teaching learning, research and service delivery will occur simultaneously. “This would be a great opportunity to expand our interdisciplinary team to include pharmacy and would also allow us to provide placements for Faculty of Pharmacy students,” said Janine Robb, Executive Director, Health and Wellness.

Open, collaborative and nimble

Technology is also rapidly changing the way healthcare services are provided. The majority of physicians use electronic records and almost 20 per cent of Canadian physicians can exchange patient summaries electronically with other doctors, explains Lisa Dolovich, professor at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy. “We hope this project will be open, collaborative and nimble enough to allow us to create and test innovative technology and practice models to enhance the patient-centered transformation of healthcare,” she says. “For example, we could pilot service delivery for the planned national e-prescribing system currently being discussed as a platform for a variety of functions including e-referrals, patient bookings, and inter-clinician messaging.”

The possibility of collaborating with local community pharmacies to enhance service, piloting “pop-up pharmacies” during flu season, and developing mobile apps for health promotion that can be evaluated in real time are other exciting ideas being discussed by the planning team. The team also hopes to engage U of T students throughout all stages of the creation process from consultation and planning to development and implementation.

But before this project can really start to take shape, various phases of consultation are required both within the university and without. “We’ve had some great feedback in our initial discussions and everyone is excited about this opportunity, now we just need to do the work and keep moving forward,” said Boon.