As Canada's aging population strains health care system, Canadians eye pharmacists as potential solution
March 28, 2019 (Ottawa): A new survey says Canadians regard the challenge of Canada’s aging population as a more serious issue than the rising cost of housing, climate change, income inequality or balancing the deficit, and they believe pharmacists should play a bigger role in sustaining a high-quality health care system.
The Abacus Data survey, released today, found that 80% of Canadians regard the challenge posed to our health care system by our aging population as extremely or very serious. It also found that most Canadians (83%) believe pharmacists are currently underused in our health care system and a large majority (86%) support allowing pharmacists to do more to help sustain a high-quality health care system given Canada’s aging population.
Community Pharmacist Christine Boudreau sees it every day – senior patients who are unsure of the medications they have been prescribed and worried about how one drug may interact with another. A Board Certified Geriatric Pharmacist in Dieppe, NB, Boudreau provides medication reviews to make sure her patients are taking the right medication at the right time at the right dose, “deprescribes” unnecessary medications and helps patients taper off sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines.
She estimates that in the neighbourhood where she works half her patients are seniors. Pharmacy staff also provide off-site medication management services at several seniors’ homes in the area, as part of a collaborative team with nurses and physicians. “My job is to listen and educate, to answer any questions my patients have and work with them to improve their quality of life. Many times, during a medication review, they will discover they don’t even know why they are on a particular drug," she says.
As the number of Canadians aged 85 and over is set to triple over the next 20 years, the seniors’ care provided by pharmacists like Boudreau could play a vital role in helping our health system respond to this challenging demographic shift.
“With our senior population increasing and patient volumes in acute care continuing to grow, we need to explore alternative ways to provide health care to Canada’s aging population,” says Christine Hrudka, Chair, Canadian Pharmacists Association. “As an underused health care resource, pharmacists are uniquely positioned to do more.”
In addition to services like medication reviews, pharmacists can provide a range of accessible health care services – all of which Canadians recognize as good ideas for helping our health care system respond to the aging population. The percentage of Canadians who think it is a ‘good or very good idea’ for pharmacists to provide the following services:
- 83% - Allowing pharmacists to administer immunizations, such as the flu shot, shingles vaccine, pneumococcal vaccine and travel vaccines;
- 78% - Allowing pharmacists to prescribe medications for common or minor ailments like pink eye, UTIs or ear infections;
- 77% - Allowing pharmacists to provide medication reviews and assessments to reduce the number of unnecessary/inappropriate medications and adverse drug reactions;
- 73% - Providing health care services for geriatric patients such as medication reviews and plans for those with complex medication needs;
- 71% - Allowing pharmacists to provide home-based medication assessments for seniors;
- 65% - Allowing pharmacists to manage chronic conditions, such as high-cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes.
“Empowering pharmacists to do more would have a number of benefits to both patients and the sustainability of our health care system,” says Hrudka. “Improving patient safety by reducing unnecessary medications and adverse events, decreasing hospital admissions and emergency department visits, freeing up long-term care beds, and improving quality of life by allowing seniors to stay in their homes longer are all important benefits that will be magnified as Canada’s senior population grows.”
The survey Canada’s Aging Population, Health care, and the Role of Pharmacists was conducted online with 3,219 Canadians residents aged 18 and over, from February 26 to March 7, 2019 by Abacus Data.
Learn more about the health care services offered by pharmacists across Canada at rethinkpharmacists.ca
About the Canadian Pharmacists Association
The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) is the uniting national voice of pharmacy and the pharmacist profession in Canada. As pharmacists undertake an enhanced role in the delivery of health care services, CPhA ensures that the profession is recognized as a national leader in health care, influencing the policies, programs, budgets and initiatives affecting the profession and the health of Canadians.