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09/05/2014 03:02 EDT | Updated 10/07/2014 06:59 EDT

A Pharmacist's Job Goes Way Beyond What You May Expect

Terry Vine via Getty Images

As Canada's population ages and our reliance on healthcare increases enormously, our knight in shining armour might just be wearing a white lab coat.

Changing provincial rules and regulations are giving pharmacists the ability to be more involved with the average Canadian's healthcare, and that's only good news for a system that's under strain — not to mention a population that doesn't always have a doctor nearby.

"The role of pharmacist has evolved for a number of reasons," says Philip Emberley, director of Pharmacy Innovation at the Canadian Pharmacists Association. "Not the least of which is that about 15 per cent of Canadians don't have access to a family physician."

While pharmacists were once seen as just being the people who dispensed prescriptions and instructions on how to take them, now, Emberley says, they're really seen as the drug experts, the people who are most knowledgeable about medications.

In some provinces, pharmacists have prescribing rights, while in others, they can question a doctor's orders and consult them to find something that works better for the patient, especially if the pharmacist knows an interaction with other meds that can be problematic.

According to a 2011 study, 12 per cent of emergency department visits for adults are due to adverse medication effects, and that's really where the power of the pharmacist comes into play. "Physicians’ ability to follow up with patients may not be ideal, so there may be the opportunity to hand this off to pharmacists," says Emberley.

Take a look at some of the things pharmacists can do for you that you may not have known about: