August 27, 2008
(Edmonton, Alberta...) In Alberta, the face of primary care, front-line health delivery, continues to change with more than 50 pharmacists now working in Primary Care Networks (PCNs) alongside physicians, nurses and other health care providers.
This change is largely the result of a $4 million Integrating Pharmacists into Primary Care Networks pilot project started in April 2006 and funded by the Primary Care Initiative, the provincial program that provides support and funding for PCNs. While most of the funds have now been allocated, the pilot project continues until March 2009.
This groundbreaking approach to primary care delivery was made possible by the trilateral agreement between Alberta Health and Wellness, Alberta Medical Association and Alberta Health Services.
In a PCN, a group of family doctors work with the local health region and other health care professionals to coordinate the delivery of primary health services for their patients.
Melissa Dechaine, a pharmacist practicing for 14 years works for the St. Albert & Sturgeon PCN in the Edmonton area. She started with the PCN in 2006 and describes her time as “absolutely fulfilling” although she does admit at times it’s a bit like riding a roller coaster.
Once a week she works in a Geriatric clinic doing medication reviews with patients and working closely with the specialist physician geriatrician and nurse.
“Today, the different medications available for elderly people and other patients can dramatically improve a person’s quality of life,” explains Dechaine. However, with many of these medications she says, they also pose a danger if not properly taken and managed. Dechaine enjoys the opportunity to teach patients about the medication they’ve been prescribed.
She is also involved in many educational programs such as helping to teach a Healthy Heart class with a dietitian and nurse and a Boosting Your Memory class with an occupational therapist and other health professionals. Part of Dechaine’s work at one of the clinics is to monitor anticoagulation patients and to teach about a commonly used "blood thinner" called Warfarin.
In the Chinook PCN, Pat Manderville is the PCN team leader for the pharmacy pilot project. There are currently nine pharmacists working part time in clinics in the Chinook PCN. As well, another pharmacist has been working in the Pincher Creek clinic for a few years now, funded outside of the pilot project.
“When we received funding from the pharmacy pilot project, we ran an ad in the local newspapers to gauge the interest level of pharmacists for working in the Chinook PCN,” says Manderville. "We received 15 responses, an overwhelming response.”
What we continually hear from our pharmacists who are now working in the PCN is that they love it,” she says. “They tell us that what they always wanted to do is to be a clinical pharmacist, that is work and educate patients.”
Similar to the St. Albert & Sturgeon PCN, pharmacists in Chinook are recognized members of the PCN clinic teams and work in managing complex cases, chronic disease management, and such initiatives as the Building Health Lifestyles Program.
Manderville points out that a relatively new treatment approach, Group Visits, is one area where pharmacists are making a real difference. “When we have a large group of patients who have the same health condition, such as diabetes, we have found real success in bringing them all together to discuss common issues and treatments,” she points out. “The physician leads the group visits and involves the pharmacists in getting patients’ diabetes under control through medication.”
Dr. Jim Bell, a family physician in the St. Albert & Sturgeon PCN, sees real benefits of involving pharmacists as members of the PCN health care team.
“They are essential for a multidisciplinary team in family medicine,” he says. “Having the pharmacist has allowed us to more closely review patients on multiple medications and provide education.” And for Dr. Bell, “pharmacists in PCNs are resources that save physicians’ time, but more importantly, we can look at new programs that improve patient care.”
Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are a made-in-Alberta approach to improve the delivery of primary care. A Primary Care Network is formed when a group of physicians and Alberta Health Services agree to work together to provide enhanced primary care services. In addition to physicians, other health professionals are key partners in delivering PCN services. Alberta Health and Wellness, Alberta Medical Association and Alberta Health Services are partners in the development of Primary Care Networks.
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For further information:
Leslie Beard (780-952-2033)
Or Primary Care Initiative Office Toll Free: 1-866-714-5724