Filling in the gaps


COVID-19 forced pharmacy to successfully “respond and innovate” but pandemic tensions may lead to medication misinformation, pharmacy leader says  

During the last twelve months, pharmacy has responded and innovated in response to the challenges to the health system posed by COVID-19, says Professor Michael Dooley, former President of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA).

“We have seen expanded roles for pharmacists on the frontline of healthcare delivery, providing essential services in all settings, from acute care hospitals and community pharmacies to aged care facilities and in patients’ homes,” said Professor Dooley in his latest editorial in the Journal of Pharmacy Practice and Research.

“This has encompassed a diverse range of initiatives and services focusing not only on therapeutics, but also educational strategies and public health interventions amongst others”.

Professor Dooley said the rapid implementation of vaccination programs was another demonstration of the importance of pharmacists’ contributions to the healthcare team.

“Pharmacists continue to be a critical pillar in providing appropriate and timely information and care to the community. This includes the care provided to individual patients, but also the broader levels of healthcare delivery relying on our practice, including public health, policy, surveillance, distribution and education”.

However, evidence‐based practice was subject to tension during the pandemic, he said, with evidence evolving on an ongoing basis, and decisions concerning medications for the treatment and prevention of infection complicated by the tension.

“This complexity will be amplified during any vaccine rollout, as individuals will need to make decisions regarding vaccination based on information available to them at that time,” he said.

“It is imperative, then, that pharmacists are well placed and ready to support patients and practitioners to inform these decisions. This will be an expectation of the community”.

Evidence‐based guidance regarding the efficacy and safety of vaccination, and the provision of this guidance, must include strategies to address misinformation circulating in the public, he said.

“It continues to be critical that the workforce has access to timely and credible information to keep abreast of innovation in therapeutics – not just to inform clinical decisions, but also to allow us to inform our community, with whom the decision to be vaccinated (or not) ultimately lies”.

“The role of pharmacists in the distribution, preparation and administration of vaccines has always been crucial, but with the additional constraints complicating these particular vaccines – relating to cold chain and a lack of sufficient doses to vaccinate – this role is more compelling than ever.

What’s more, this historic effort must be undertaken while continuing to focus on strategies that stem transmission and continue to support our patients and colleagues during this time”.

 

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