The day-to-day role of a pharmacist has not only expanded to become impressive, but it is now also vital for healthcare businesses and the medical fraternity.
From handling prescription delivery services to educating patients virtually to performing Covid-19 testing and also preparing and ultimately administering the vaccine, the new capabilities will help grow and diversify the field of pharmacy for years to come.
This year World Pharmacists Day, which is observed on September 25, is themed “Pharmacy united in action for a healthier world” to reflect the profession’s positive impact on health around the world.
“Covid has shown us that healthcare is a ‘team sport’, we must set aside professional hierarchies and function together to serve our patients,” according to Dr. Nadia Rashed, Academic and Healthcare Consultant who works as an Assistant Professor at Sharjah University in the Pharmacy Practice and Pharmacotherapeutics Department.
“Pharmacists have established themselves as core members of the patient care team and during Covid they have embraced their role as frontline workers. Pharmacists have deep clinical knowledge and are highly accessible within the community across inpatient, outpatient and emergency settings in hospitals. This uniquely positions the pharmacist to educate communities and to increase patient access to medication and care,” she said.
According to Dr. Rashed, in the future, the role of the pharmacist is increasing significantly and more patients will be relying on pharmacists to learn about their health.
A Saudi survey found that 41 per cent of Saudi consumers prefer to consult with pharmacists on prescription medication, however, 48 per cent of consumers want pharmacists to increase counselling about their medications. Of the latter, consumer counselling constitutes 62.2 per cent (USA), 25 per cent (UK), and over 50 per cent (Canada) of the cases.
Another recent survey done in Saudi Arabia shows that the current positive perception and attitude toward community pharmacists among the public creates an opportunity for pharmacists to assume expanded roles as healthcare providers.
“Empowered pharmacists have a huge role such as raising health and well-being awareness, helping patients select the right over-the-counter products, referring them to the right specialities, providing health education on how to correctly use medicine and potential drug interactions,” she said.
Mohamed Magoury, Director of Pharmacy Services at Fakeeh University Hospital, Dubai Silicon Oasis, said: “Covid-19 has necessitated alterations to the delivery of healthcare services. This has accelerated changes in the traditional positioning criteria of pharmacists as businesspeople into more patient-centred healthcare professionals.”
He said that pharmacist-provided services and clinical interventions have been shown to reduce the risk of potential adverse drug events and improve patient outcomes.
“These pharmacist activities can be cost-effective or have a good cost: benefit ratio. Now, with the healthcare systems shifting from a volume-based reimbursement structure to a value-based reimbursement structure, pharmacists' unsung role will become increasingly apparent. With their expertise in assessing the whole patient picture; pharmacists can coordinate care between prescribers and affect drug therapy’s clinical and economic effects in addition to emerging new technologies, in which pharmacists help bridge the gap between clinical information and information technology,” he said.
Magoury also said that most people trust pharmacists to play a great role in care delivery. “With increased demand of doctors and nurses, and as complex new therapies and digital health care technology solutions are developed, the role of the pharmacist will continue to evolve,” he explained.
The UAE Government and ministry of health has also recognised these needs with the release of the Unified Healthcare Professionals Qualification Requirements (PQR).
“This has introduced more specialised role for pharmacists such as Critical Care, Infectious Diseases and Clinical Pharmacology,” he added.