VPSA funds project addressing cost-related nonadherence to prescription medications

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Can your patients afford the drugs you prescribe? That’s a question Dr. Lynn Straatman, Dr. Ken Gin, and Kimi Manhas (BScN (CCN(C)), M.A Leadership) would like you to ask whenever a patient needs medication. They recently collaborated on a project addressing cost-related nonadherence (CRNA) to prescription medications, which was funded by VPSA’s Engagement Accelerator. The project focused on Fair PharmaCare enrollment as one of the solutions to CRNA, with an emphasis on automation, access, and education.

“CRNA is an important issue when we are trying to give patients the best care possible,” said Dr. Gin. “About five to 10 per cent of Canadians cannot afford their prescription medicines and they end up cutting pills in half, skipping doses, or cutting back on other expenses such as food or heat. The result is additional visits to family doctors and emergency departments and an increased need for hospitalizations.”

Since COVID-19, a survey through the Angus Reid Institute found that 23 per cent of Canadians described financial barriers to prescription medication.

“With the project funding we were able to develop several resources that promote awareness of CRNA and the Fair PharmaCare program including brochures, posters, videos, an infographic, and a website,” said Ms. Manhas. “We tested these with other healthcare providers as well as patients. These focus groups were also an opportunity to educate participants about medication affordability. All the resulting resources are currently available on the VPSA website.”

Fair PharmaCare is an income-based plan that helps BC families pay for eligible prescription drugs, dispensing fees, and some medical supplies. Many people, including physicians and other healthcare providers, are not aware of the program and how it can assist in affording prescriptions. Signing up for the program can also be difficult for those with poorer social determinants of health—who are the same people most likely to have medication affordability issues. The resources developed as part of the CRNA project are designed to assist patients with the registration process.

“As a result of the project, we were asked to lead grand rounds for the Division of Family Practice and have given grand rounds for the UBC Department of Medicine as well as providing education to community groups,” said Dr. Straatman. “We met with staff from Fair Pharmacare; they have taken many of our suggestions and changed their website significantly, using some of the same language and layout suggested in the work Kimi spearheaded. We have also been working with VCH Communications and expect medical staff will see the results of that collaboration soon. This has been a really successful venture and we’re grateful to VPSA for funding the project.”

(Ms. Manhas also gave a presentation on addressing medication affordability at an August BCPSQC Quality Café that you can screen here.)

VPSA’s Engagement Accelerator provides up to $20,000 in funding for physician-led projects that will improve collaboration among facility-based physicians, across divisions and/or departments, or between facility-based and community physicians. Projects that engage other health professionals are encouraged. We are now accepting expressions of interest for 2022 Engagement Accelerator projects. Click here to learn more or to apply. The deadline to apply is December 19, 2021.

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