Topics of Interest

The Ontario Pharmacists Association is actively involved in advocacy activities on a number of topics of interest to our profession. Many of these areas of interest require long-term commitment, and may require many months or even years of involvement to produce the desired end result. 

On this page is a summary of the topics that OPA is monitoring or that our staff is actively involved with on an ongoing basis. 

What is eHealth?

Since health care is information-based, better utilization of information has the potential to make the system more integrated and available, while enhancing patient safety and accountability. 

According to Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, which has a vision to advance and integrate health care to make it more accessible and improve efficiency, eHealth is about achieving better health outcomes by transforming health systems and business practices through investment in, and more comprehensive use of, information and information technology. The goal of eHealth is to deliver the right information about the right individual to the right person at the right place at the right time, in order to enhance health outcomes and improve system efficiency.

OPA’s role

The Ontario Pharmacists Association has been collaborating with stakeholders and we are actively involved in several eHealth projects. 

We will continue to lead in the eHealth environment by ensuring that all initiatives and projects reflect the input of Ontario pharmacists.

Learn more

For information about Ontario’s eHealth strategy, please visit the eHealth website: www.ehealthontario.on.ca.

What is the Blueprint for Pharmacy?

The Blueprint for Pharmacy is a collaboration of healthcare professionals — including pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, pharmacy owners, faculties of pharmacy, and pharmacy organizations — working together to help align pharmacy practice with the healthcare needs of patients across Canada. 

OPA’s role

The Ontario Pharmacists Association is pleased to be an active member of the Blueprint for Pharmacy Steering Committee. We are committed to supporting the program’s Vision for Pharmacy and its goal of helping to ensure that pharmacists are providing “optimal drug therapy outcomes for Canadians through patient-centred care.”

Blueprint In Motion Newsletter

The March 2014 issue of Blueprint in Motion is now available online. This issue features highlights from the recent Blueprint for Pharmacy Steering Committee meeting, updates on key Blueprint projects and initiatives, and pharmacy news from across the country. Read more here.

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Learn more

Learn more about the Blueprint for Pharmacy at www.blueprintforpharmacy.ca.

What is Better Care Faster?

Better Care Faster is a coalition of Ontario organizations dedicated to helping to improve health care in the province. 

As our population grows and ages, there will be an unprecedented level of demand for health care and services. In particular, the growing prevalence of chronic disease is one of the biggest health challenges and major cost drivers, and is therefore an area of particular concern.

We need to begin developing solutions today to address the challenges of tomorrow, so that Ontarians can get the health care they need, when they need it. The partner organizations involved in Better Care Faster include health care providers, health organizations, businesses, and professional associations, all working together to develop solutions. 

OPA’s role

The Ontario Pharmacists Association is an active member of Better Care Faster. 

The highly trained pharmacists across Ontario have played a critical role in making ours one of the best models in the world, and we believe they can play an even bigger role in order to bring continued improvements through new and expanded services and extended hours of operation. 

As supporters of improved health care in Ontario and as active participants in driving our system towards those improvements, OPA is pleased to support the goals and activities of Better Care Faster.

Learn more

For more information about the program, please visit www.bettercarefaster.ca.

An update on preferred provider networks

This is to provide an update on the topic of Preferred Provider Networks (“PPNs”) offered by insurers to pharmacy corporations who operate in Ontario. These can restrict the choice patients have to select the provider of their choice, or compel them to move to a new pharmacist if the pharmacy they normally use can’t participate in the new arrangement. Many pharmacists have expressed concern for their patients, some of whom have developed a strong patient-pharmacist relationship that helps them manage their chronic conditions and complicated medication regimens. OPA feels that PPNs should be structured in such a way to enable patients to retain their choice of pharmacy provider and to allow pharmacies to participate in such arrangements.

Background

This issue was raised at OPA’s Annual General Meeting in June, and your board of directors and staff committed to providing an update to members once they could undertake more research and analysis, including meetings with insurance providers and related companies.

Over the last few months, OPA staff, board and consultants have been reviewing available preferred provider agreements utilized by insurers, and in addition have met with some of the leading insurance companies and claims adjudication companies to discuss our concerns, and gauge their receptivity to our input. It was apparent from these meetings that this type of arrangement is becoming firmly established in the marketplace, and that insurers have found willing participants from within the pharmacy community to support plans.

Recommendations

The Ontario Pharmacists Association prefers that all patients be able to choose and maintain a relationship with the pharmacy and pharmacist of their choice that matches their needs. Notwithstanding that, where PPNs do exist, we expect they operate according to the following four principles, which we believe are essential to ensuring fairness:

  • Patients must be able to choose and maintain the pharmacy and pharmacist of their choice, and if a PPN is established by or through their employer, the patients’ pharmacies must have the option to participate in the PPN subject to their agreement to the financial/service requirements or terms. In the interim while this is determined, patients must have unfettered access to their current provider and coverage.
  • All PPNs should be open to any willing pharmacy provider, so long as they agree to the terms, e.g. payment for services, provision of service. Existing closed PPNs should be amended to allow pharmacies and pharmacists the right to participate.
  • Savings gained by employers through PPNs should be reinvested in pharmacists’ professional services in all or in part, and payment for pharmacists’ services should be explicit as part of the agreement between pharmacy owners and the PPN.
  • It is the responsibility of the pharmacy owner (whether an independent or a banner/chain) to make their intentions known to the PPN sponsor that they wish to participate in the plan, and to agree to its terms.

Next Steps

We are in the process of drafting what we believe are reasonable and appropriate terms of reference for a model PPN, and will share that with insurers, payors and plan benefits consultants. We will encourage them to consider this in the design of any current or proposed PPN. We will continue to monitor the promotion and implementation of such plans on behalf of our members, and comment publicly when we feel that the needs of patients and our members who serve them are compromised. We will also communicate our point of view to the appropriate regulatory authorities within the provincial government, by way of information.

We hope that by positively advocating for patient choice, open pharmacist participation, and re-investment in patient services through Pharmacy, we can help influence the sponsors of these less than ideal service arrangements to make them more fair and equitable for pharmacists and patients alike.

We will schedule a telephone town hall meeting as soon as possible to allow you to provide input, comment and perspective, which we may pass on to our stakeholders in the insurance industry and in government.

Please watch for eblasts with further information, or check www.opatoday.com for notice of the member event including sign-in details.

Ontario Pharmacist Perspectives on Marijuana

In January, 2016, the Ontario Pharmacists Association launched a survey to its members asking for input on the topic of marijuana and whether or not pharmacy should play a role in its distribution. The survey was intended to explore pharmacists’ perceptions on the availability and distribution of marijuana for both medical and recreational use, as well as pharmacists’ comfort level with the clinical aspects of marijuana, with an overarching goal of better informing and preparing OPA staff for a more national dialogue on this important topic.

In total, 671 pharmacists – representing all membership categories and postal code districts – participated in the survey.

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