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Expanding Pharmacist Practice Scope Could Reduce ED Overcrowding

Benefits could be seen for frequent complaints like cough, dermatitis, and inflammation of ear, nose, throat

emergency room sign

MONDAY, Jan. 14, 2019 (Pharmacist's Briefing) -- The introduction of emergency department- or community-based pharmacists with an expanded scope of practice may cut emergency department overcrowding, according to a study recently published in Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy.

Mhd Wasem Alsabbagh, Ph.D., and Sherilyn K.D. Houle, Ph.D., both from the University of Waterloo in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, used administrative databases (2010 to 2017) to identify all unscheduled emergency department visits with a Family Practice Sensitive Condition (FPSC) and Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale (CTAS) score of IV or V and conditions that can be managed by pharmacists with expanded scope.

The researchers found that of 34,550,020 emergency department visits identified, 12.4 percent were considered an FPSC with a CTAS score of IV or V. Of these visits, just over one-third (34.8 percent) were for conditions considered to be potentially manageable by pharmacists, representing 4.3 percent of all emergency department visits. Acute pharyngitis, conjunctivitis, rash and other nonspecific skin eruption, otitis externa, cough, acute sinusitis, and dermatitis were the most frequent diagnoses. Higher odds of presenting to the emergency department were related to female gender, having a family physician, and presenting with a CTAS score of IV. Increased age and income were associated with lower odds of presenting to the emergency department.

"Over the seven years of the study period, we found that pharmacists with an expanded scope could potentially have managed nearly 1.5 million cases in Ontario," Alsabbagh said in a statement.

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