B.C. Industry News

The future of pharmacy arrives early at UBC

April 28, 2014

Patients book hour-long sessions, receive advice not drugs

By Pamela Fayerman, Vancouver Sun April 28, 2014

VANCOUVER — It’s touted as the best and future model of pharmacy care — not to mention it’s the first clinic in Canada where you can get an hour’s worth of free advice on all your medications.
Just don’t expect to fill a prescription there, since there aren’t any drugs for sale on site.

At the Pharmacists Clinic, which officially opened Monday at the University of British Columbia’s Pharmaceutical Sciences Building, experts are on hand to help patients manage their prescription or over-the-counter medicines, supplements and natural health products.

Identifying or resolving actual or potential problems, including side effects or  complications, is a big part of the service provided there, as are recommendations in reports to doctors.

Doctors can refer patients to the clinic and patients can also self-refer by booking hour-long appointments in person, over the phone or even on Skype. That’s a lot longer than the usual time allotted to patients and customers for such matters, concedes Barbara Gobis, the director of “Canada’s first university-affiliated licensed, patient care clinic.”

“Patient care is a continually moving target. This clinic is really where the future of pharmacy is going so we are calling it a proof of concept for what pharmacists are trained and capable to do,” she said. “It’s what we expect they will be doing more of in the future — sorting out patients’ medicines.”

Gobis stressed the clinic is not meant to replace the dispensing pharmacy, but to supplement it. Such services are essential because of the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases associated with an aging population.

While doctors and drugstore pharmacists in the community are also available for queries in offices and stores, “at this clinic, we schedule dedicated time to such appointments. At most pharmacies, they just don’t have the time or staff to do so.”

An important byproduct of the work done at the clinic is training for the more than 200 students enrolling in UBC’s pharmacy program each year, but Gobis emphasizes it is not a student-run clinic.
Direct patient care is provided by a handful of experienced pharmacist/mentors who are being shadowed by students. Pharmacists-in-training also benefit from research done on the services provided to up to 250 patients seen there each month.

In the few months leading up to this week’s official opening, pharmacists have observed that during the soft-opening phase, patients shared a lot of useful information about their symptoms and medications that they probably didn’t have time to tell their regular pharmacy team.

The clinic overhead and staff are funded by the UBC faculty of pharmaceutical sciences. While patients generally are not expected to pay out of pocket for services, there may be some instances when they will. For example, some vaccinations are not publicly funded.

Medication reviews are often covered by public or private health insurance plans. Pharmacists can bill the provincial government $15 to $70 per medication review. Gobis said she expects the reviews and reports they generate will improve patients’ health and have an influence on physician prescribing habits.

The clinic was first conceived in 2010 by faculty members at UBC and planned as an important element in the new Pharmaceutical Sciences Building, which opened in 2012.

The College of Pharmacists of B.C. granted the clinic a licence late last fall.

Sun Health Issues Reporter
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