Collaborative Healthcare: Physicians & Pharmacists Working Together

As we all know, physicians and pharmacists represent a major part of the health care system, and play a major role in the health of the patients. They have mutual responsibilities toward the patient in their goal of providing optimal drug therapy. Thus, in order for them to successfully achieve this goal they need to work cooperatively and collaboratively to improve patient care and safety. According to a study conducted with local physicians and pharmacists in Newfoundland and Labrador, both pharmacists and physicians agree that collaborative practice can positively affect patient outcomes and would like more collaboration opportunities.

I believe that the main issue with communication between physicians and pharmacists is that there is no common way in which both groups can monitor a patient’s medication therapy profile to ensure that it is safe, efficient and up-to-date. For instance, there is no way of regulating how many pharmacies a patient visits with the same prescription. This can become a major issue especially with narcotic drug prescriptions because the patient is able to purchase more medication than what was initially prescribed to them, thus leading to overdose and other addiction related problems.

It’s clear that technology today plays a crucial role in healthcare by supporting the development of better health services for patients, and by better understanding and engaging with the needs of people to achieve better health and wellbeing. As a result, this dialogue proposes a secure technological creation that aims to improve communication and collaboration between physicians and pharmacists. The main goal of this recommendation is to create a more efficient and secure way of transmitting prescriptions, authorizing refills, and sharing other related drug therapy information electronically between an authorized physician and a patient’s choice of pharmacy.

The idea behind this solution is for an online database to be set up in which only physicians and pharmacists can access using their personal username and password. This database will allow both groups to connect and share information regarding a patient’s medication therapy. As for the patient, they will have a drug card which will contain their complete drug therapy history. They must present this card when visiting a physician to get a prescription, and also to the pharmacist when purchasing their medications. The physician’s role will be to sign onto the database and “swipe” the drug card to gain access to the patient’s profile in order to prescribe the required medication and save it onto their profile. This will replace paper prescriptions, hence decreasing the risk of drug therapy errors due to unclear hand-written prescriptions. The pharmacist’s role will be to also sign onto the database and “swipe” the drug card to gain access to the patient’s profile to view the prescriptions and dispense the required medications. This process will increase convenience for dispensing of new and refill prescriptions. Pharmacists will also need to confirm how much medication they dispense to the patient and save this information onto their profile. This is one of the main benefits of this collaboration between both groups, as it will prevent the patient from purchasing more medication than is prescribed to them, because no matter which pharmacy they choose to purchase from the information on the card will be the same.

The benefit of the drug card is that it takes into consideration patient confidentiality and security as both groups may only gain access to a patient’s profile once this card is “swiped”. Another important benefit of the drug card is that it encourages both physicians and pharmacists to use this collaborative database as they MUST log on in order to prescribe, or dispense (“sell”) the required medications in the case of pharmacists.

Just like any other proposal, this suggested solution has its challenges as well. The data collected from a survey done with pharmacists and family physicians in Newfoundland and Labrador concluded that, both groups agree that time constraints and financial barriers limit the extent to which physicians and pharmacists interact to provide care.[2] To solve these barriers I suggest that there should be changes to implement financial models that may be more conducive to supporting collaborative practice. However, further study will be necessary to create an optimal remuneration model.

The increasing complexity of medication therapies emphasizes the need for strong relationships between pharmacists and physicians to optimize patient care and safety. By incorporating the advances in technology to achieve this goal, we could efficiently improve patient treatment and help decrease health care costs.


References:

Kelly, Deborah V., et al. “Pharmacist and physician views on collaborative practice Findings from the community pharmaceutical care project.” Canadian Pharmacists Journal/Revue des Pharmaciens du Canada 146.4 (2013): 218-226.
MacLeod-Glover, Nora ,“Communicating with physicians.” Communications Centre National Continuing Education Program (2007).https://www.tevacanada.com/pdfs/CCL—February-2007.aspx
e-Prescribing Joint Statement. Canadian Medical Association & Canadian Pharmacists Association. (2012)
http://www.pharmacists.ca/cphaca/assets/File/ePrescribingStatementENG2013.pdf


Ream Elbadri

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Ream Elbadri is currently a 4th year undergraduate student at Western University pursuing a bachelor of  Health Sciences degree. She is interested in health innovation, and in creating innovative and cost-effective solutions to healthcare problems to provide high quality care. Ream is currently a Research Assistant with the Faculty of Health Sciences at Western University.