Published in the Ontario Pharmacist magazine, Vol. 81, Issue 2, 2017, click here for the full article.
By: Heather Hadden, BScPhm, ACPR, RPH and Suzanne Singh, BScPhm, ACPR, PharmD, RPH
While patients typically encounter pharmacists at their local community pharmacy, or at the hospital if admitted with an acute illness, it is increasingly important that patients have access to pharmacists at all major intersection points within the healthcare system. This can help mitigate risks that may result from fragmented care and ensure safe and effective medication use. Strong partnerships between pharmacists through the continuum of health services across Ontario can be leveraged to elevate our collective professional profile and make a difference.
Pharmacists embedded within Ontario’s family health teams (FHTs) play an important role in today’s healthcare system and contribute to the enhancement of intraprofessional collaboration.
FHTs are interprofessional practice sites that were created to expand access to comprehensive primary healthcare services across Ontario. Since 2005, 184 FHTs have been operationalized, with over 3 million Ontarians currently enrolled in FHTs over 200 communities within 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs).1 About 170 pharmacists are currently employed as salaried FHT employees funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
FHT pharmacists are typically engaged in four core activities:2
FHT pharmacists report that working at a FHT practice is professionally rewarding.3,4
FHT pharmacists are uniquely positioned within an interprofessional primary care practice to support seamless transitions as patients traverse various sectors of the healthcare system.
Given that a solo FHT pharmacist may be employed at a FHT with a large patient roster, it is essential to help coordinate pharmacist services so that the most vulnerable patients at highest risk for adverse events benefit from care coordination. This may be facilitated by intraprofessional collaborative practice models. For example, the FHT pharmacist may refer patients to the community pharmacist for expanded scope activities, or the FHT pharmacist and community pharmacist may adopt a shared-care approach to managing complex patients. Similarly, the hospital and FHT pharmacist may collaborate around discharge planning.
Unfortunately, the pharmacist position is not automatically included in the base funding for a FHT and so not all FHTs have a minimum 1.0 full-time equivalent pharmacist integrated in the team. We need to work on this. No family doctor working in a group practice would set up their practice without a nurse or an administrative professional; the same view should now apply to pharmacists.
Pharmacists need to unapologetically promote pharmacist integration into primary care teams such as FHTs. Having a pharmacist working within a FHT is helpful for all pharmacists in a given community, and as a profession we have a responsibility to continue to advocate for funding from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for pharmacists. It is important that we are capitalizing on the skills and knowledge of pharmacists to deliver safe and high-quality care wherever and whenever necessary.
Each LHIN in Ontario has a FHT pharmacist liaison. Contact the authors to learn who the FHT pharmacist liaison is in your LHIN and to discuss collaborative opportunities.
For more information, email Heather Hadden at email@example.com or Suzanne Singh at firstname.lastname@example.org
The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions of Lisa Dolovich, Chair of the Ontario Primary Care Team Pharmacists Working Group.