One step at a time: Pharmacists and physicians exchange patient data electronically

Canada Health Infoway announced a first in Canada:  Pharmacists and physicians exchanging medical data stored in patients’ electronic medical records.

Pharmacists can now “access lab test results, allergies and other vital data from consenting patients’ electronic medical records”, allowing them to “collaborate with physicians and the rest of the provider team and resolve drug-related issues more effectively and efficiently for their patients”.  The physicians seem also seem to be ecstatic about this new development as they are now able to “make better use of the expertise provided by pharmacists, make more efficient use of my time and hopefully, provides a more convenient and effective patient experience”.  This announcement is another sign of increased collaboration between the various health professionals in the system.

On a personal note, I can attest to how difficult this project must have been.  On a few occasions, I’ve been involved with developing “data dictionaries” from within an institution and across multiple institutions.  All I can say is that the task is tedious.  I spent six months reconciling definitions of indicators across a multi-site hospital because each department measured things differently.

Now that pharmacists and physicians have access to the same information about a patient, what’s next?  I’ve been participating in a home care knowledge translation course and a trend I’ve been noticing is exploring increased roles for pharmacists – notably in the area of education and medication checks.  The research that we’ve reviewed suggests that pharmacists haven’t made much of an impact (yet).

Regardless, I think this announcement by Canada Health Infoway is a great first step.  I would have liked to have known how the pharmacists are using this information.  What’s next?