A simple way to improve pharmacist-patient interactions

Checking technicians would allow pharmacists to spend more time on patient-focused activities in both community and hospital pharmacy settings, New Zealand research has found.

Based on overseas models in the US and UK, where a specific checking technician role has been in place for 10 years,¹ researchers from the University of Otago examined a pilot program developed by the Health Workforce New Zealand government agency, which introduced the role of the Pharmacy Accuracy Checking Technician (PACT).²

‘A lack of time within the work day was identified as a barrier to pharmacists increasing their clinical activities, with the example of the pharmacist to perform the final accuracy check of a dispensed prescription as one of many New Zealand clinical requirements for the profession,’ the researchers said.

‘The checking technician would be responsible for the final accuracy check of a dispensed prescription. They would take responsibility for ensuring the medication dispensed and the label information corresponded to the prescription or other documentation.

‘They would not be responsible for a clinical check of the appropriateness of the request, which would remain the responsibility of the pharmacist. An appropriateness check would be performed by the pharmacist prior to the prescription being released for filling/dispensing.’

The research was conducted across 12 pilot sites from both community and hospital settings, and required participants to self-monitor their daily activities to track time spent on patient-focused, dispensing and personal activities. The data was compared across these categories between the pharmacist and checking technician roles both before and after PACT training.

New technicians were trained for the role, which was based on a UK model but specifically tailored to the New Zealand pharmacy setting. Implementation of the pilot required a reallocation of tasks within the pharmacy team.

The introduction of the PACT into the pilot sites saw a mean increase of 19% in pharmacists’ patient-focused activities. Additionally, technicians saw a mean increase of checking prescription activities of 13%.

The study authors noted that hospital pharmacists undertake clinical activities that do not take place within the presence of the patient, such as checking laboratory results and making recommendations for dosing or drug choices, and so were careful to use the terminology ‘patient-focused activities’. They did note that this category could still have been subject to underreporting.

The researchers concluded that the introduction of checking technicians would be a groundbreaking shift for professional practice.

‘It is a move for the pharmacist away from the mechanical process of dispensing a prescription and facilitating a move to a more patient-focused model,’ they wrote.

Lack of time has been identified as a barrier to the increase in clinical roles for pharmacists, this introduction of a checking technician role is clearly a facilitator for this shift.

‘The pilot study demonstrated that this will potentially provide significant amounts of time for an increased clinical role encompassing both current and future activities.’

Read the full article here. (paywall)

1. Napier P, Norris P, Green J, Braund R. Can they do it? Comparing the views of pharmacists and technicians to the introduction of an advanced technician role. Int J Pharm Pract. 2016;24(2):97-103.

2. Napier P, Norris P, Braund, R. Introducing a checking technician allows pharmacists to spend more time on patient focused activities, Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy 2017;14(4):382-386.