nature publishing group
Integrating Family Medicine and Pharmacy
to Advance Primary Care TherapeuticsL Dolovich1,2, K Pottie3–5, J Kaczorowski6–8, B Farrell3,5, Z Austin9, C Rodriguez1,
K Gaebel1 and C Sellors2
The prevalence of suboptimal prescribing of medications
a week starting 1 June 2004. They were selected through a struc-
is well documented.
1,2 Patients are often undertreated or
tured hiring process that emphasized communication and criti-
not offered therapeutic treatments that are likely to confer
cal thinking skills and a demonstrated willingness to encourage
3,4 As a result, drug-related hospital admissions
innovation in practice.12 All the pharmacists had previously
are common and often preventable.
5 Improvements to the
worked within a community setting, and also within a hospital
health-care system are clearly needed in order to maximize
or a long-term care setting. The seven family medical practice
the benefits that can be derived from medications. Many
sites included inner city, urban, and semirural locations. Six
countries are changing their primary health-care systems
were community sites and one was a full academic site. In four
to improve the quality of health-care delivery.6,7 One main
of the sites, paper records were used, while the other three used
transformation is the use of multidisciplinary care teams
electronic medical records. The number of physicians ranged
to provide care in a coordinated manner often from the
from 6 to 15 per location.
same location or by using the common medical record of
the patients. It has been demonstrated that pharmacists IMPACT PrACTICe Model
can improve prescribing, reduce health-care utilization and
The project practice model was composed of four components
medication costs, and contribute to clinical improvements
that were employed concurrently to foster integration and pro-
in many chronic medical conditions, such as cardiovascular
mote optimal prescribing and use of medications (described in
disease, diabetes, and psychiatric illness.8–11 However, the
detail Training and support were provided to assist
effect of integrating a pharmacist providing general services
the pharmacist and others at the location to manage change. A
into a primary care group has not been extensively studied.
2-day training workshop was held for the pharmacists to assist
The Integrating Family Medicine and Pharmacy to Advance
them to transition into the unfamiliar environment of a busy
Primary Care Therapeutics (IMPACT) project was designed
family practice. The workshop experience centered on the Family
to provide a real-world demonstration of the feasibility of
Practice Simulator, an interprofessional curricular innovation in
integrating the pharmacist into primary care office practice.
which physicians, pharmacists, and other health-care profession-
This article provides a description of the IMPACT project
als work with standardized patients and carry out activities over
participants; the IMPACT practice model and the concepts
the course of a typical day in family practice.13 Ongoing support
incorporated in its development; some initial results from the
was provided through a mentorship program. Mentors provided
program evaluation; sustainability of the model; and some
emotional support, problem-solving advice, and assistance with
reflections on the implementation of the practice model.
developing clinical knowledge and skills. Each pharmacist had
access to a provincial drug information center. The pharmacists
IMPACT ProjeCT PArTICIPAnTs
were also provided with profiles of the medical practices at the
IMPACT was a demonstration project that placed a pharma-
relevant locations and a project implementation guide.
cist into each of seven family medical practice sites across the
In order to preserve the relationship and avoid fragmentation
province of Ontario, Canada. The pharmacists worked 2–3 days of care, the family physician retained the lead role in diagnosing
1Centre for Evaluation of Medicines, St. Joseph’s Healthcare, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; 2Department of Family Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton,
Ontario, Canada; 3Élisabeth Bruyère Research Institute, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; 4Institute of Population Health, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada;
5Department of Family Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; 6Primary Care and Community Research, Child & Family Research Institute,
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; 7Department of Family Practice, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; 8Department of Health
Care and Epidemiology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; 9Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto, Toronto,
Ontario, Canada. Correspondence: L Dolovich (Received 17 January 2008; accepted 31 January 2008; advance online publication 19 March 2008. doi:
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| VOLUME 83 NUMBER 6 | JUNE 2008
Table 1 A description of the IMPACT practice model
intervention level Detailed description of intervention component
The provision of comprehensive medication assessments, ongoing on-location collaboration with
the health-care team, and collaborative implementation of the pharmacist’s recommendations to
resolve drug therapy problems. This involved a review of the medical chart; interview with the patient
to gather information on current and past medication history; adherence to medication regimen and
patient-reported medication issues; identification of drug-related problems and therapeutic dilemmas;
solution-oriented recommendations for optimization of drug therapy being provided to the physician
through verbal discussion and written documentation; and working with the physician and other team
members to develop and implement medication changes, education, and monitoring of medication use
Education and dissemination of new therapeutics evidence to health-care providers (including physicians)
System-level activities aimed at improving drug prescribing and use throughout the practice site
(e.g., clinical care paths, administrative efficiencies) or through seamless care in other settings, such as
Focused activities aimed at enhancing the integration of the pharmacist into the practice
IMPACT, Integrating Family Medicine and Pharmacy to Advance Primary Care Therapeutics.
illness, prescribing medications, and consulting with the phar-
were an emotional roller coaster for the pharmacists. They fluc-
macists. When dealing with individual patients, the physician tuated between feeling underutilized and out of place to feel-
was asked to review the advice provided by the pharmacist and ing highly valued and accepted. They recognized the need to
determine the management approach, including consultation improve their skills and proactively sought to work with project
staff, mentors, and others in managing clinical uncertainties,
communicating with their fellow health-care team members,
ConCePTs And frAMeworks underlyIng The IMPACT
prioritizing recommendations, implementing recommenda-
tions, ensuring proper documentation, and taking on a higher
The IMPACT practice model was based on previous research level of responsibility for patient care.
experience in pharmacy practice14–16 and methods of facili-
tating change in family practice.17 It also used a knowledge Initial experiences of physicians
translation framework incorporating IMPACT program activi-
Physicians recognized many interprofessional benefits by work-
ties, with the aim of encouraging the uptake of evidence to ing with a pharmacist directly integrated into their practice.29
improve the prescribing and use of medication. The activities An analysis of qualitative data from semistructured interviews
carried out in the IMPACT practice model reflected the use of conducted with 12 participating physicians 12 months after a
a multifaceted, multilevel approach (i.e., activities focused at pharmacist began working in the practice identified several per-
the levels of patient, provider, and practice) that is well recog-
ceived benefits: having a colleague who provided reliable drug
nized as being capable of fostering behavior change; in this case, information, getting fresh perspectives, and increased clinical
changing the prescribing and use of medication.18–20 Activities security. Benefits for the practice included improved education
of the pharmacists were also aligned with the current state of for the group as a whole, a liaison with the community pharmacy,
pharmacy practice, which invokes a patient-centered approach and an enhanced sense of being a part of the team. Persistent
in optimizing pharmaceutical care.21–24
operational challenges included finding time to learn about the
The development of the interdisciplinary IMPACT practice pharmacist’s role and skills, and insufficient space within the
model utilized a knowledge translation framework to encourage premises to accommodate the pharmacist. Serial quantitative
the integration of the pharmacist into the family practice site and analyses of physicians’ responses showed an increase in their
to bring about the intended changes in the prescribing and use perceptions of pharmacists’ contributions to medication-related
of medication. The framework drew on theories from education, processes in the practice.30
epidemiology, behavioral sciences, marketing, social learning
and innovation, and organizational behavior.18,25–27 Each theory Patient referrals
provided a focus of attention and a rationale for including an The IMPACT intervention led to 1,554 patients being referred
additional element in the family practice model
to the pharmacist for a comprehensive assessment over the
The project received ethical approval from the McMaster course of the 24 months of the project. Of these, 969 (62.4%)
University Research Ethics Board, and all the patients provided assessments were completed by the pharmacists for patients who
provided informed consent. Further details about the flow of
patient referrals are provided in Supplementary Data S1
IMPleMenTATIon of The PrACTICe Model
Of the patients assessed by the pharmacist, 56% (n
= 538) of
Initial experiences of pharmacists
the referrals were prompted through a chart auditing process.
An analysis of qualitative data from monthly narrative reports Further details about the chart auditing process are provided in
written by each pharmacist28 showed that the first 4 months Supplementary Data S2
online. The other 44% of the patients
VOLUME 83 NUMBER 6 | JUNE 2008 | www.nature.com/cpt
Table 2 knowledge translation framework for aspects of IMPACT pharmacist integration practice model25–27
Theoretical element that
was a focus in the impaCT
specific examples in impaCT
Discussion of needs of each practice location
Pharmacist–physician one-to-one review of individual patient assessments
Training program centered on active situation-based learning
Dissemination of evidence through tools such as one-pagers for both health-care provider and patients
(cognitive theories) information-seeking
Encouraging the justification for pharmacist recommendations with evidence from literature and the
Use of profiles of the practice to show overall performance for various indicators of medication
The contributions of the pharmacist and the practice to improvements over time in definitions
of roles and responsibilities and preparation of an implementation guide
Projects aimed at improving the practice, prioritized based on consensus among practice members
Presentation and discussion of pharmacist integration intervention with all the members of the
Multiple methods of communication used for implementing drug therapy change recommendations
Recognition of where physicians and others are along the adoption of innovation continuum
Adapting of resources and approaches from one practice location to another
Implementation of reminder and monitoring prompts for prescribing issues where possible
Providing the practice with financial reimbursement to offset costs associated with participation;
holding back part of the reimbursement until project deliverables accomplished
Formalizing the role of the key opinion leader within each practice as project liaison
Providing role-modeling through a mentorship program
Encouraging inter-practice communication through teleconferences and meetings to generate positive
Prioritizing areas of change in the organization (improvements) to create some initial
Ensuring that key policy makers are well informed and take appropriate steps to minimize
Defining roles and responsibilities in the practice for pharmacist, administrators, and physicians
organizational conditions Encouraging frequent communication and dialogue between pharmacists and other health-care
Recognizing the need for some flexibility in integration across varying practice locations
Encouraging regular review of the integration process so as to generate continual improvements
Providing strong leadership and support from the central project management
Project staff and mentors acting as facilitators of the change management process
Providing the tools (e.g., practice profiles and implementation guide) for a framework for the
IMPACT, Integrating Family Medicine and Pharmacy to Advance Primary Care Therapeutics.
were referred by their physicians, without prompting and with-
Presence of drug therapy issues as identified
out restrictions attached to the reason for referral. The number by the pharmacist
of referrals for the seven practice sites ranged from 133 to 260 At least one drug-related problem (DRP) was identified and
per site. Sixty of the sixty-four physicians (94%) across the seven assessed by the pharmacists in 909 (93.8%) patients. A total of
practice sites referred at least one patient to the pharmacist 3,974 DRPs were identified, making an average of 4.4 DRPs per
patient. The most common DRPs identified included patients in
The average age of the patients who were assessed by the phar-
whom there were indications requiring a therapy but who were
macist was 72 (s.d. 11) years and 62% of them were women. not receiving it (27.0%), patients who were not taking or receiv-
Patients had an average of 4.8 (s.d. 2.3) medical conditions and ing the prescribed drugs appropriately (16.5%), and patients who
was taking an average of 7.0 (s.d. 3.8) prescription medications and were receiving too low a dose of the drug (16.2%).
3.4 (s.d. 3.2) over-the-counter medications at their first encounter
The total number of adverse drug reactions or potential
with the pharmacist. On the basis of a 10-item medication-related adverse drug reactions identified was 315 (7.9% of all DRPs
risk questionnaire,31 63.1% of the 907 patients who completed the identified). Pharmacists identified adverse drug reactions in 241
questionnaire reported three or more medication-related risks. patients (26.5%). The most frequently reported types of adverse
For example, 26.5% of patients were unclear about the need for drug reactions addressed by the pharmacists were those asso-
all of their medications and 15.7% found it difficult to fol ow their ciated with over-the-counter medications, nonsteroidal anti-
medication regimen or sometimes chose not to.32
inflammatory drugs, and the use of benzodiazepines. Further
CliniCal pharmaCology & TherapeuTiCs
| VOLUME 83 NUMBER 6 | JUNE 2008
Table 3 Types of adverse drug reactions identified (n = 315)
were at a high level of medication-related risk. The patients’ drug
adverse drug reaction
therapy problems were addressed, and various improvements
emerged within the family medical practice settings in rela-
Muscle cramps or myalgias associated with statin use
tion to optimization of the prescribing and use of medication.
Theoretical concepts and data from earlier research on phar-
macy practice and behavioral change in primary care provided a
GI effects (including ulcers and bleeding)
strong foundation from which to develop the IMPACT practice
model, training program, support system, and evaluation of the
IMPACT intervention. The explicit approach to optimization of
the system of prescription and use of medication recognized that
the required change involved people across disciplines, espe-
cial y the participating pharmacists and family physicians. It also
Side effects of antihypertensive medications
recognized that changes in the prescription and use of medica-
tion could be achieved when attention was focused on multiple
levels: the patient, the provider, and the practice.
Successful integration was defined a priori
as comprising both
a functioning office system and the development of a col abora-
tive working relationship between physicians and pharmacists. A
functioning office system was characterized by having clear roles
Adverse reactions associated with OTC use
and levels of responsibility regarding medication use processes
for each member of the team; mechanisms to identify, prevent,
address, and resolve DRPs; and the capability to innovate, such as
by identifying unresolved problems for further action (i.e., contin-
uous quality improvement). The program evaluation found that al
the IMPACT locations had demonstrated an initial level of success
ACE-I, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor; ASA, acetyl salicylic acid; GI, gastrointestinal; NSAIDs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; OTC, over-the-counter.
in integrating the pharmacist into the practice. IMPACT pharma-
aIncludes increases in uric acid (due to reduced renal clearance), changes in CrCl, and so
cists provided consultation for patients who were on a complex
on. bIncludes dry mouth, constipation, fatigue, and so on. cSome examples: serotonin
therapeutic regimen, offered timely and tailored drug informa-
syndrome; nightmares with use of ranitidine; use of protein pump inhibitors (PPIs) in gal bladder disease; selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) use and sexual
tion, and implemented useful medication-focused improvements
dysfunction; elevated triglycerides (TGs) and rosiglitazone; and phenytoin toxicity.
in the system. The evaluation of the process of integration al owed
for identification of challenges and incorporation of solutions
details are provided There were 142 (3.6% of all DRPs during the project. Further analyses are under way to examine
identified) actual or potential drug interactions identified in 118 collaborative working relationships over time; patient satisfac-
patients (12.1%). The two drugs that were mainly involved in tion; costs; and the effectiveness of such integration of pharmacists
drug interactions were warfarin and levothyroxine, identified into primary care practice in improving medication monitoring,
prescribing of medications, and clinical outcomes for patients.
system-level improvements in practice methodology
sustainable practice change
The process of effecting changes in the practice involved a com-
The efforts of IMPACT, in conjunction with other local initia-
plex series of steps for both physicians and pharmacists and tives and policy changes, have helped produce sustained change
took time to evolve. Medication-focused practice enhancements in health-care delivery. In Ontario, Canada, the use of multidis-
emerged from the practice to facilitate behavior change in related ciplinary care teams comprising various health-care providers
practice processes.These processes and tools were intended to providing care in a coordinated manner has manifested as inter-
increase the efficiency and effectiveness of both prescription disciplinary practice groups cal ed Family Health Teams (FHTs).
and use of medications. Some examples of system-level prac-
To date, 150 FHTs have been created in Ontario, Canada. All the
tice enhancements developed during IMPACT included: a dia-
practice locations involved in IMPACT became FHTs and have
betes care monitoring system; a medication switching protocol elected to include a pharmacist position within their FHTs. To
(i.e., drug discontinuation or recall); computer system alerts; a date, sixty-seven full-time equivalents for pharmacist services
prescription renewal process; drug sampling procedures; and have been approved for FHTs across Ontario, Canada. A toolkit
containing guides for pharmacists, lead physicians and loca-
tion managers, a physician information pamphlet, and sample
documents, as well as a Practice Enhancement Guide are avail-
IMPACT was a large-scale demonstration project that helped able on the IMPACT website at http://www.impactteam.info.
encourage the integration of pharmacists within interdiscipli-
IMPACT team members also participate in provincial drug and
nary health-care teams as part of primary health-care reform in primary care policy advisory committees. In conjunction with
Ontario, Canada. The pharmacists provided care to patients who the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists and the Canadian
VOLUME 83 NUMBER 6 | JUNE 2008 | www.nature.com/cpt
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