Pharmacy professionals enhance access to public health and primary care, from minor ailments to virtual care and mental health.
March is Pharmacy Appreciation Month, providing Canadians with a unique opportunity to recognize and celebrate their local pharmacy professionals. The smiles, trust, and gratitude of patients and caregivers inspire pharmacy teams to press forward and fulfill the extraordinary potential of their profession.
For communities throughout Canada, pharmacies are often the first, most frequent touchpoint that patients have with the health care system, offering a safe space for compassionate care.
Expanding the services that patients can access at pharmacies makes it even more convenient for people to connect with expert care quickly and close to home.
Governments are increasingly leveraging pharmacy professionals by expanding their scope of practice. As we continue emerging from the pandemic, there’s an urgency to shore up strained health systems and meet patient needs promptly. The pharmacy sector’s broad network and pharmaceutical supply chain are reliable partners for delivering a growing suite of in-demand services and virtual care options.
This expansion of services matches new government investments in pharmacy-based programs like P.E.I.’s shingles vaccination campaign and Nova Scotia’s Bloom mental health initiative. Programs like these leverage the versatility and responsiveness that have become hallmarks of a sector that steps up, time and again, to meet Canadians’ diverse needs.
Community health hubs
Come springtime this year, pharmacists in every province will have the authority to assess and prescribe for at least a dozen common conditions. This remarkable fact is a striking example of how pharmacy teams integrate into all aspects of patient wellness, positioning pharmacy as a cornerstone for the future of resilient health systems.
By consulting a knowledgeable pharmacist, Ontario patients can now be assessed for 13 common medical ailments, including rashes, pink eye, insect bites, and urinary tract infections — demonstrating the value of pharmacies as community health hubs.
Since Ontario’s milestone policy change in January, 60,000 patients have already taken advantage of the new assessment program. The service is especially beneficial for Ontario patients, who typically see their pharmacist up to 14 times annually. Nearly half of Ontario’s 4,700 pharmacies offer the new services, with more participation expected.
With unparalleled convenience and accessibility, pharmacies’ extensive footprint improves care for patients in rural and remote communities. Pharmacy teams collaborate with health care partners to deliver high-quality, wraparound care. Pharmacy resources create capacity by reducing wait times in primary care, walk-in clinics, and emergency departments, allowing physicians to focus on complex patients.
Indispensable to modern health care
With research and support from the Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy, a national pharmacy charity, organizations like the Ontario Pharmacists Association (OPA) and the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada (Neighbourhood Pharmacies) work to deepen the connection pharmacy professionals have with patients and the public.
Pharmacist, Chair of the Board, Ontario Pharmacists Association
“We work to emphasize and advance the interconnected care pharmacy teams facilitate each day — collaborating with providers, patients, and caregivers to achieve the best possible outcomes,” notes Tim Brady, pharmacist and Chair of OPA’s Board of Directors.
“The pandemic helped to unlock pharmacy’s true potential for embracing growth, and we’re still not even scratching the surface of all that pharmacies can contribute,” Brady adds. “What’s also exciting is how the public and profession are increasingly awakening to the adaptability of pharmacy technicians as essential to patient care and pharmacy operations.”
Access, equity, convenience
With pharmacies at the nexus of local health systems, OPA and Neighbourhood Pharmacies are calling upon the Ontario government to enhance Ontarians’ access to publicly funded routine immunizations by having these shots available at community pharmacies.
Vice President of Pharmacy Affairs, Neighbourhood Pharmacies
“Together with our public health and primary care partners, pharmacy professionals are ready to get everyone caught up on routine vaccinations by administering this service,” says Shelita Dattani, Vice President of Pharmacy Affairs at Neighbourhood Pharmacies. “It’s concerning that one in four Canadians delayed or missed routine vaccinations because of the pandemic. Pharmacies have a proud history of supporting patients in their communities, and the pandemic accelerated the profession’s rapid evolution at the forefront of health care.”
Recognizing progress and potential
Pharmacies contribute tremendously. They provide everything from public health and medical advice to patient navigation and specialty care while safeguarding their workforce to promote balance, well-being, and sustainability.
“We’re signalling to policymakers that integrating the pharmacy profession into their health care strategies improves outcomes and saves taxpayers’ money,” says Brady. “Policymakers understand that it’s in the public’s best interest to use the skills and abilities of health care practitioners to their fullest potential in serving patients.”
Learn more, visit readyforwhatsnext.ca.