How Your Pharmacist Can Help You Manage Your Health

Dispensing and monitoring meds is just the beginning of what your pharmacist can do for you

How Your Pharmacist Can Help You Manage Your Health

Source: Best Health magazine, September 2015

Imagine this: You’ve just been diagnosed with high blood pressure. Your doctor writes you a prescription for medication, which you drop off at your local pharmacy. You have lots of questions, including what possible side effects the new drug may cause and whether it’s OK to take it with your other medications.

Your pharmacist can answer those queries ‘ and now do even more to help you manage your condition. Recently, the role of Canadian pharmacists has expanded to include the provision of many other healthcare services beyond dispensing drugs. Depending on where you live, your pharmacist might be able to authorize refills of blood pressure medication if physician-authorized refills have lapsed, for example. ‘Providing refills for chronic medications is new and ensures continuity of care ‘ an important element in chronic disease management,’ says Philip Emberley, director of pharmacy innovation at the Canadian Pharmacists Association.

And that’s just the beginning. You may not realize it, but your pharmacist may also be able to give a flu or shingles vaccine, order lab tests or prescribe medication for minor ailments. ‘The broader scope of the role of pharmacists is a reflection of all the services they can provide for their patients,’ says Emberley.

Glenda Marsh can attest to that. She is the owner and pharmacy manager of a Shoppers Drug Mart in Brandon, MB, and the council president of the College of Pharmacists of Manitoba. Since new regulations in Manitoba were introduced last year, she has been able to do much more for her patients. This includes prescribing inhalers as part of the continuing-care process, prescribing nasal corticosteroid sprays and giving the human papilloma virus vaccine.

As pharmacists did before, a key component of their job is to provide counselling on how to manage certain conditions, including high blood pressure. All Shoppers Drug Mart stores offer blood pressure monitoring machines, which can be used daily at no charge. But patients don’t have to do it alone; a pharmacist can assist and give direction for more accurate results.

The pharmacist can also interpret the paper printout reading (available in all Shoppers Drug Mart locations, except in Quebec) and advise on buying a home monitor. Tracking materials are available, too, including a card that patients can put into the monitor that will report  and print their last 10 blood pressure readings, as well as the average of them. Marsh also provides a booklet where patients can record their readings and keep them handy for their next doctor’s appointment.

These additional services may mean that pharmacists see certain patients every week, sometimes even more frequently. ‘You build long-term relationships and get to know them on a first-name basis,’ says Marsh. ‘Over time, people become more comfortable asking
us questions and realize that we can do much more than just give them their prescription.’