As pharmacy professionals, we all understand the value of evidence and data to support informed clinical decision making that has the patient’s best interests in mind. As a regulator, the College must also rely on reliable information and data to guide our work, the decisions that we make, and the programs we develop and implement to promote quality and safe pharmacy practice in the public interest.
In my letter in the Winter 2018 edition of Pharmacy Connection, I point out the many initiatives underway at the College that have made access to data and quality indicators for pharmacy a top priority. Evidence and quality data are considered the building blocks of good health care, helping to improve knowledge and practice among health professionals and patients alike, inform good decision making and, ultimately, influence quality and safe care as well as positive patient outcomes.
As you all know, we’re moving forward with a medication safety program and are making progress towards a province-wide roll out to all 4,300 of Ontario’s community pharmacies later this year. Subsequently, we will begin the work in our hospital pharmacies. In this issue of Pharmacy Connection you’ll learn about how the experiences of our ambassador pharmacies are helping to inform how best to support pharmacies and pharmacy professionals as they begin to implement the program in just a few months.
While a significant degree of attention has been paid to anonymous reporting of incidents and near misses through this program, one of the most important aspects of the program lies in what the pharmacy system will be able to do with aggregate data that we will, for the first time in Ontario, have access to. Reports generated through the program will help all of us better understand how many errors occur in community pharmacies in the province, why they happen and what we all can do to prevent them from recurring.
Our desire to make data-informed decisions and to better measure the quality and impact of pharmacy on patient outcomes continues to drive our work in other areas too. As you’ll read later on, the College continues to work closely with Health Quality Ontario to establish pharmacy in the province’s health quality agenda and recently invited several pharmacy stakeholders to participate in a roundtable to help us define a path forward to achieve this objective. The first step involves co-creating a set of standardized pharmacy quality indicators that will support our work as a regulator and as pharmacy professionals to better understand and measure the quality and impact of pharmacy on patient outcomes and health system performance.
Our focus on having information to support good decision making also extends to emerging matters such as cannabis. In October of this year, the Cannabis Act, which makes access to and use of recreational cannabis legal in Canada, will come into force. This is a significant milestone in the country’s history; however, there is to-date limited information about the effects of cannabis on patient outcomes.
The College’s Cannabis Strategy, endorsed by Council in June 2018, acknowledges the important role pharmacy professionals can and should play in supporting quality patient care for those who use cannabis, including building pharmacy professionals’ knowledge to understand the effects of cannabis on a patient’s overall health and well-being. The Strategy also acknowledges the need for better data and information about patient experiences with cannabis and how pharmacy professionals can help contribute to better knowledge in this rapidly evolving area.
When we don’t have access to data or statistical information, it’s important that we continue to build our understanding in other ways. In all of the strategies you’ll read about in this issue of Pharmacy Connection, we have sought input from patients, the public, health system partners and pharmacy professionals to help shape our decisions and focus our work on what matters most: protecting patients. Combined with quality data, these are perspectives that we need and will continue to seek in everything we do as we work together to ensure the priorities of Canada’s largest pharmacy regulator are always well-informed.
CEO and Registrar
Ontario College of Pharmacists