Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, 24-April-2009, Vol 122 No 1293
Examining the first year of Medicines Use Review services provided by pharmacists in New Zealand: 2008
Evan Lee, Rhiannon Braund, June Tordoff
Many people take several medicines a day to help control chronic medical conditions. Nevertheless, estimates suggest that only about 50% of such people adhere to treatment recommendations.1 Thus some people may not benefit fully from their medicines, and many “health dollars” may be wasted. “Adherence support” medication reviews (ASMRs) by pharmacists are one type of intervention shown to improve adherence to therapy.2–4
Governments in some countries are funding community pharmacists to provide such reviews in collaboration with patients and GPs in order to improve patients’ use of medicines (e.g. Medicines Use Reviews [MURs] in the UK).5–7 Patients and providers appear satisfied with such services and a recent UK study indicated that GPs implemented (on average) 56% of pharmacists’ recommendations resulting from such reviews (MURs).8
ASMR is one of several types of medication review undertaken by doctors, pharmacists, or nurses and has been categorised as a level 1 review according to a UK organisation, the National Collaborative Medicines Management Service Programme (NCMMSP).9,10
The categories are:
Clinical medication reviews (level 3) have been shown to be effective in regard to: optimising therapeutic outcomes, reducing the number of drug-related problems and reducing pharmaceutical waste.2,11,12 The NCMMSP define a medication review as “a structured, critical examination of a patient’s medicines with the objective of reaching an agreement with the patient about treatment, optimising the impact of medicines, minimising the number of medication-related problems and reducing waste.” 9
Pharmacists in New Zealand have worked collaboratively with GPs for almost two decades providing medication reviews for selected patients. The first generation of reviews, Pharmaceutical Review Services (PRS), was introduced in 1998. These involved pharmacists reviewing patient’s medication collaboratively with the patient and GP, and were clinical medication reviews (level 3) with access to clinical notes.13 A maximum of one review per patient enrolled per year was funded by the government. PRS ended in 2004 following health service reorganisation and the devolvement of budgets to district health boards (DHBs).
In 1996, a second generation of medication reviews, Comprehensive Pharmaceutical Care (CPC®), was introduced.13 This adopted a model from the USA that involved a pharmacist working in collaboration with the patient and GP in order to identify and resolve actual and potential drug-related problems. Again these were clinical medication reviews. Unlike PRS, CPC® is still underway in New Zealand. Nevertheless this is not a government funded service, and the patient must bear the cost themselves.
In 2007, as part of the National Pharmacist Services Framework, Medicines Use Review and Adherence Support services (MURs) were introduced in New Zealand.14 MURs, a level 1 type of review, aim to provide “adherence support” for selected patients. MUR is a pharmacist-led, structured, systematic, consultation-based review of a patient’s medication.14 It involves reviewing a patient’s medications, identifying any practical or medication-related problems, and educating the patient about their medicines.
Pharmacists must complete the MUR training course provided by the New Zealand College of Pharmacists (NZCP) to be accredited to provide this service. MURs are not nationally funded and local schemes must be agreed with DHBs. MURs are reported to be provided in some parts of New Zealand6 however, to date, there is a paucity of information on these services
The aims of the present study were to identify where in New Zealand MURs services are provided by pharmacists, and to collect information on the processes involved and pharmacists’ perceptions of the service.
A list of all MUR accredited pharmacists to date in New Zealand was obtained from the NZCP during May 2008. A structured questionnaire was developed and pilot-tested by five pharmacists, three of whom were community pharmacists currently undertaking MURs. The draft questionnaire was modified in the light of their comments. The final version of the questionnaire consisted of 23 questions in four sections comprising of a combination of closed and open questions.
Questionnaire topics included: participation; location; pharmacists’ qualifications; source of referrals; interview settings; criteria for recruitment; duration of interviews; activities involved; follow-up interviews; actions taken on drug-related problems; referrals and feedback; documentation; remuneration; and criteria for funding compliance packaging.
Pharmacists’ opinions were sought on the need for a nationally funded service, documentation, perceived value to patients; and suggestions to improve the service.The study was approved by the School of Pharmacy University of Otago Ethics Committee.
An information sheet, consent form, and questionnaire were mailed to 68 MUR accredited pharmacists during May 2008 along with a post-paid envelope. To improve the response rate, potential respondents received three reminders (via electronic mail and/or telephone) during July and August. Those telephoned were asked whether they were providing MURs and any reasons for not yet providing a service.
Pharmacists that agreed to participate were requested to mail the questionnaire back to the investigators along with a blank copy of any MUR reporting sheet or follow-up record if available. The period of data collection closed on 5 September 2008.
Information was extracted from completed questionnaires, entered into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and analysed.
Demographics, participation, and barriers—Sixty-eight of 71 MUR-accredited pharmacists on the NZCP list were sent a questionnaire; three pharmacists had no contact details available. Fifty-four accredited pharmacists responded to the survey giving an overall response rate of 79%. Among these, 30 pharmacists completed the questionnaire and were providing the service.
After telephone follow-up, nine initial non-responders were also confirmed as current MUR providers, three were non-providers, and two were lost to follow-up (location unknown). At the end of the study, 66 of 68 pharmacists were successfully contacted. So, overall, 39 (57%) of the 68 pharmacists sent a questionnaire were undertaking MURs, 27 (40%) were not.
Five of the 21 DHBs were funding the MUR service by May 2008. The 39 pharmacists providing MURs worked in the following DHBs: Bay of Plenty (3 pharmacists), Canterbury (12), Capital and Coast (10), Waikato (6), and Waitemata (8). The study also identified that 33 (3.7%) of 897 pharmacies15 in New Zealand were providing an MUR service.
Twenty-three of the 27 accredited pharmacists who were not yet undertaking MURs identified barriers to providing a service: no current contract agreed with potential funders (7); insufficient time (4); only “trial” MURs undertaken at present (3); personal circumstances (not employed at present, been away two months, caring for a sick relative) (3); GPs and or patients were not interested (2); now working part-time or as a locum (2); claiming is too complex (1); and achieved accreditation for business reasons (1).
The 30 respondents currently providing the service that completed the questionnaire provided the details below.
Duration of service—Of the 30 MUR pharmacists, over half had undertaken MURs for less than 6 months, five for 7–12 months, three for 13 to 23 months, and six for over 24 months (the latter were involved in pilot schemes).
Qualifications—Eleven (37%) pharmacists had undertaken postgraduate study: postgraduate papers (1), certificates (4), diplomas (4) or a Masters degree (1), or NZCP modules (1).
Referral of patients for MUR—Patients were referred by general practitioners (reported by 83% of respondents); the MUR pharmacists (80%), nurses (70%), self-referred (70%), non-MUR pharmacists (67%), patients’ relatives (57%)—and others (17%) such as patients’ friends, pharmacy staff, or pharmacy clients.
Eligibility criteria of patients for MUR—MURs were funded for people living in the community or having one or more chronic disease states and meeting one or more of the specified conditions—e.g. people taking three or more medicines and/or 12 or more doses per day (Box 1).
Box 1. Eligibility criteria for patients
Setting of MUR interview—Sixteen pharmacists (53%) reported the interview was undertaken in the patient’s home or a private area in the pharmacy; seven in a private area of the pharmacy only; four in the patients home only; two in the GP surgery, and another in a rest home.
Duration of MUR interview—The MUR consisted of an initial interview of median 57 minutes (range 30–120 minutes) and follow-up interviews of median 15 minutes (range 5–90 minutes). The pre-interview report writing and preparations were not included in this period. After the first interview, two or three follow-up interviews took place.
The typical activities involved in MUR—After referral of a patient who met the funding criteria, the pharmacist would collect information on the patient’s medication and history from the pharmacy record and doctor’s records. Written consent must be obtained from the GP and the patient prior to undertaking the interview.
Subsequently the pharmacist would arrange a face to face consultation with the patient. Initial activities (Box 2) included checking the indication, efficacy, and side effects of each medicine taken; assessing the signs and symptoms in relation to the patients conditions; checking patients’ adherence to therapy and medication understanding; assessing the patients dexterity and medicine management; identifying practical problems discussing options; and making recommendations.
Box 2. Common activities involved in MUR
Follow-up activities included (Box 3) undertaking some monitoring and assessments appropriate to the patients condition (symptoms, weight, blood glucose, blood pressure, inhaler technique), monitoring how the patient is managing any changes and assessing the patient’s knowledge and understanding of their medicines. Pharmacists would continue to assess whether the patient met the criteria for compliance (blister) packaging.
Box 3. MUR follow-up assessments
Contact with other health professionals and feed-back received—All pharmacists (100%) stated that they contacted GPs whenever necessary. Others contacted included: the practice nurse (70%), consultants/specialists (13%), district nurses (13%), community psychiatric nurses (13%), and others (27%) such as PHO pharmacists or nurse specialists for diabetes. Eighteen pharmacists (60%) reported receiving feed-back after contacting other health professionals. Sixteen (53%) of them received feed-back from GPs, and gave no details of the feed-back (7%). Twelve pharmacists (40%) said that they had never received feed-back
Documentation—As agreed with the DHBs, all MUR pharmacists retained consultation records. These were used for follow-up and audit purposes. Twenty-seven pharmacists (90%) used hard copy only; one (3%) used electronic copy only; one (3%) used both hard and electronic copy; and one (3%) did not respond.
Actions taken on drug-related problems—All respondents would contact the GP regarding a drug-related problem if considered beyond the scope of the MUR and would telephone if the problem was urgent. If less urgent they would document the problem and refer it to the GP or health professional concerned, and follow up with a phone call later. If appropriate most said they would discuss the problem with the patient, and some would meet with the GP.
Perceptions and future directions—All pharmacists perceived the service as highly valuable (93%) or moderately valuable (7%) to patients. Over half strongly agreed (33%) or agreed (20%) that MUR should be a nationally funded service, about a quarter disagreed (20%) or strongly disagreed (7%), and 20% remained neutral.
Over a third strongly disagreed (20%) or disagreed (17%) that payment was adequate, a similar proportion agreed (30%) or strongly agreed (7%), and 23% remained neutral. Twenty-seven pharmacists suggested the service could be improved by funding a computer program for documentation, increasing the number of MUR interviews and follow-ups per pharmacy per year, promoting the service more strongly to GPs and patients, and encouraging more feedback from GPs.
Funding of compliance (blister) packaging—Compliance (blister) packaging was funded: under specific criteria (15 pharmacists, 50%); without any criteria set (1 pharmacist, 3%); following the MUR pharmacist’s recommendation (5 pharmacists, 17%); and 9 pharmacists (30%) stated the packaging was not funded (Box 4).
Box 4. Criteria for funding of compliance (blister) packaging
Remuneration—The payment for the service ranged from $101–$150 (for three interviews) to $181–$200 (for four interviews), plus subsequent documentation.
The present study aimed to identify the New Zealand locations where the adherence support MUR services are provided by pharmacists, collect information on the processes involved and pharmacists’ perceptions of the service.
The study found that MUR services were funded by five DHBs by May 2008: Bay of Plenty, Canterbury DHB, Capital and Coast, Waikato, and Waitemata. Thirty-nine accredited pharmacists were performing MURs. This was 59% of accredited pharmacists with current contact details working in 33 (3.7%) of New Zealand’s 897 community pharmacies.
Although numbers were small it should be noted that the service was introduced only a year prior to the survey, and that contracts must be negotiated with individual DHBs before MUR services can be funded. Indeed, seven accredited pharmacists were awaiting an agreement with their DHB at the time of the survey. Anecdotal reports suggest the numbers of pharmacists involved in MUR are increasing, but statistics are not readily available as the service is not centrally organised.
At conception, MUR services were intended to be a collaborative service involving GPs, pharmacists and patients.14 The study provides some evidence that this is occurring: GPs and other health professionals are reported to be involved in the recruitment of patients for MURs; they are provided with feedback from the reviews, give feedback themselves to pharmacists, and are contacted appropriately (urgently or in due course) following MURs regarding drug-related problems. However the study suggests that collaboration might be improved in some geographical areas as two pharmacists claimed that local GPs were slow to refer patients. These may be isolated cases but any pharmacist wishing to set up a MUR service would be wise to discuss this with their local GPs at an early stage and develop a collaborative approach.
Evidence from other countries supports a collaborative approach to medication review. The benefits of this have been demonstrated in Australia16–18 and led to the launch of the Home Medicines Review (HMR) service in 2001. In this service, GPs select and refer patients for an HMR by an accredited pharmacist thus HMRs are funded only where the GP deems them “clinically necessary”.5 Both GPs and pharmacists are remunerated for their involvement in the service. Following increased numbers of MURs in the UK, a government white paper now advocates more GP involvement to ensure the targeting of reviews to patients in most need.19
Earlier experiences of collaborative medication review services in New Zealand, PRS and CPC, may have fostered the development of MUR services.13 However, unlike annual PRS reviews, MURs consist of an initial review and two or three follow-ups. This allows monitoring of the patient’s condition in response to medication changes. In the present study, some pharmacists thought more follow-ups per year should be funded so that closer monitoring could take place, however this may not be feasible until the benefits of MUR have been established.
The present study highlighted a number of barriers to providing MURs. Most commonly cited were a lack of a local contract, and insufficient time. The latter is consistent with an earlier study in New Zealand.20 A national system for claiming remuneration would remove one perceived barrier, however the present study found that about a quarter of MUR providers did not want a national contract possibly preferring local negotiations. Nevertheless the lack of a nationally funded system may mean that the service will not be accessible to all patients in New Zealand.
The study found wide eligibility criteria for the funding of MURs in New Zealand with eligible patients being mainly those living at home taking many medicines or daily doses and and/or patients with chronic illness. These were similar to criteria for the HMR scheme in Australia.5 Nevertheless criteria for MUR may need to be reviewed if future studies identify patient groups most likely to benefit.
The study found that all MUR pharmacists perceived the service as being highly valuable or valuable to patients. However, the present study did not seek data on patient outcomes as the MUR service is in its infancy. Future studies are needed on patient outcomes, measuring symptom control, surrogate markers and so forth, to establish the benefits of MURs.
A common suggestion for improving the service was to computerise the documentation process. Future research could examine whether using such a system (a privately developed programme exists in New Zealand) would improve information flow and lead to any additional benefits to patients.
There are some limitations to this study. Firstly the study provides only an outline of the MUR service in New Zealand. A more rigorous study is needed to assess the benefits of MURs for patients. A randomised controlled trial or cohort study should be considered in future when the numbers of pharmacists performing MURs increases. Furthermore, the study did not quantify the number of MURs undertaken by each pharmacist but simply identified those performing MURs. At this stage it was considered too early to be requesting such information, however future studies should attempt to quantify this.
The present study found that, by May 2008, collaborative adherence support medication review services (MURs) were provided in five DHBs in New Zealand: Bay of Plenty, Canterbury, Capital and Coast, Waikato, and Waitemata. Thirty-nine pharmacists (59% of those accredited to provide the service) were doing so, from 33 (3.7%) of New Zealand’s community pharmacies. Patients were referred for MURs by GPs, pharmacists, nurses, relatives, or by self-referral. MURs took place in patients’ homes, community pharmacies, and GPs’ surgeries.
As the service framework was launched only a year or so ago, uptake of the service is low at present. Studies should be undertaken as the service grows to establish stakeholders’ perceptions of the value of the service and, most importantly, the impact of MURs on the health outcomes of patients.
Competing interests: None known.
Author information: Evan Lee, Intern Pharmacist, Pharmacy@carefirst, New Plymouth; Rhiannon Braund, Lecturer, School of Pharmacy, University of Otago, Dunedin; June Tordoff, Senior Lecturer, School of Pharmacy, University of Otago, Dunedin
Acknowledgements: We thank the pharmacists who made helpful comments on the pilot-tested questionnaire as well as the pharmacists who responded to the survey.
Correspondence: June Tordoff, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Pharmacy, School of Pharmacy, University of Otago, PO Box 913, Dunedin, New Zealand. Fax: +64 (0)3 4797034; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was corrected on 20 November 2009 to reflect the Erratum at http://www.nzmj.com/journal/122-1306/3893
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