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Ontario OPEN for pharmacy practice research

The Ontario Pharmacy Research Collaboration was launched on May 31 at a media event officiated by University of Waterloo senior administrators and the Honourable John Milloy, member of provincial parliament for Kitchener Centre.

Co-led by Drs. Nancy Waite and Lisa Dolovich, this ambitious multidisciplinary and multi-institutional research program is supported primarily by a $5.77 million grant from the government of Ontario to evaluate the quality, outcomes and value of medication management services that pharmacists and other healthcare professionals provide.

In recent years, the government of Ontario has expanded scope of practice so pharmacists — the third largest group of healthcare professionals in the province — can provide better patient-focused care. The province has invested significantly in these new services and may expand pharmacist scope of practice in the future.

OPEN was established to conduct a series of research projects to examine how effective current pharmacist services are, if patients are making the best use of them, how these services can assist other healthcare professionals to provide better healthcare, and what new or expanded medication management services might benefit Ontario’s patients.

OPEN’s projects are conducted in tandem with three program-wide themes to ensure research findings are put into action, that students and new investigators are trained in multidisciplinary health services research, and that dimensions of vulnerability are integrated into study designs, data collection and analyses.

OPEN brings together some 50 researchers, staff and students from the University of Waterloo, McMaster University, University of Toronto, Western University and the Bruyère Research Institute, a partnership of Bruyère Continuing Care and the University of Ottawa.

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Dispensing from the ivory tower to the pharmacist’s counter

OPEN is driven by and is responsive to its knowledge users — individuals from Ontario organizations and associations who will apply OPEN’s research findings to improve pharmacy practice, the cost-effectiveness of services pharmacists provide, and the quality of healthcare in Ontario.

Representatives from Shoppers Drug Mart, Rexall and the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores have contacted OPEN to see if they can participate in the program and help put research into practice.

Discussions are an early stage, but we see much potential for collaboration with our colleagues in retail pharmacy to improve the health and healthcare system of Ontarians.

Stakeholder presentations

OPEN’s co-leaders have made several presentations at a series of conferences, meetings and research rounds this fall —

  • Nancy Waite spoke to colleagues at the Ontario College of Pharmacists about OPEN and how the program is supporting pharmacy practice research in the province
  • Lisa Dolovich spoke to thought leaders in government, industry and academia about OPEN and its role in evaluating and expanding pharmacist scope of practice at the Global Perspectives Summit, an event hosted by the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy
  • Lisa Dolovich presented about OPEN and its research aims to Ontario’s Pharmacy Council, a 12-member advisory body that provides recommendations to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
  • Lisa Dolovich and Nancy Waite spoke about OPEN and its research goals to Blueprint for Pharmacy, a national initiative led by the Canadian Pharmacists Association to optimize drug therapy outcomes through better patient-centred care
  • Lisa Dolovich gave a presentation at the Centre for Evaluation of Medicines at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton about OPEN’s research structure, the studies underway, and how knowledge users are responding to OPEN’s work.

Spotlight on pharmacists as immunizers

Last fall Ontario’s community pharmacists administered flu shots for the first time as part of the province’s Universal Influenza Immunization Program. Pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare providers and are in an ideal position to provide immunization services. By expanding their scope of practice they have joined physicians and nurses in providing improved access to this important public health measure.

Led by University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy researchers Drs. Eric Schneider and Nancy Waite, OPEN’s Pharmacists as Immunizers project is evaluating the effectiveness and uptake of influenza vaccination in community pharmacies.

The project will determine the demographic and clinical characteristics of patients who receive flu shots from their community pharmacists and will examine the attitudes and beliefs of pharmacists, physicians, nurses, public health officials and patients with respect to this recently expanded scope of practice.

Project findings will be used to help increase the uptake of immunization by pharmacists, as well as to inform university and professional organization education programs to better prepare pharmacy students and practicing pharmacists to provide flu shots.