Fixing Healthcare Can Be As Close As Your Neighborhood Pharmacy

The Value of Your Neighborhood Pharmacy

The Clinical Emergency is Medicine Itself

(Source: Forbes) Demand for primary care services is projected to increase through 2020, due to the increasing aging and population as well as the expanded insurance coverage implemented under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In other words, the demand for primary care physicians will grow more rapidly than the supply, resulting in a projected shortage of over 20,00 full-time physicians.

The Value of Your Neighborhood Pharmacy

Nearly 70% of Americans are on at least one prescription drug and over 50% of Americans are on at least two prescription drugs. Given the shaky assumption that these folks are actually taking their medicines, it’s fair to say that beyond the physician, the pharmacist plays a key role in the health dynamic. Currently pharmacists can provide many services to their patients–from information to specific medicines.  In fact, the pharmacy is often a first source of medical information for many.  Pharmacy services have evolved from strictly dispensing medications to offering services such as medication therapy management, medication education, improving medication adherence, administering immunizations, and health/wellness. In addition, pharmacists can now be found in specialty areas such as oncology, organ transplant and even psychiatry. RxWiki–an on-line patient information service–now extends the pharmacy experience into the digital landscape, offering patients on demand access to medication information, pharmacy transactions, and medication adherence. RxNetwork is another emerging company with a unique methodology to link the pharmacy and patient–providing real-time support from compliance to education.  RxNetwork’s patient relationship management solution bridges the pharmacy-patient communication gap and provides an efficient, non-disruptive solution for the pharmacies with a convenient, rewarding, motivating solution to their connected patients.

Expanding the Role of the Pharmacist

However, the reality is, for most, the pharmacist simply isn’t considered a healthcare provider but a dispenser of drugs. This fact certainly impedes utilizing pharmacists to the fullest degree.While there have been some advancements in the pharmacy profession such as prescriptive authority and administering immunizations, there is still a tremendous potential to explore and potentially tap. A survey conducted in 2013, revealed 70% of consumers said they would go to a pharmacist for health  services if their insurance covered them. Twenty one percent of that 70% say they’d still go to a pharmacist even if they would have to pay $75 out of pocket. These percentages suggest that patients would both trust and engage pharmacists for medial care.  This becomes important, particularly in rural areas where access is limited. A central point is that pharmacists can play a valuable role working with physicians and other providers to optimize medication therapy, deliver patient-centered care, and assist in managing acute and chronic conditions.

A Champion of Medication Adherence

One very important role a pharmacist can have a huge influence is improving medication adherence. Medical care costs of people with chronic diseases account for more than 75% of the nation’s $2 trillion medical bill.  Interesting almost 50% of people prescribed medications for chronic diseases do not take their medications correctly. Adherence plays a great role in a patient’s management of chronic conditions and providing a value to the cost of medications. This relationship actually costs the United States 300 billion annually in medication related issues.  The data suggest that the pharmacist can play a critical role in adherence and a  systematic review of the adherence literature found that five of six pharmacist-directed interventions in community pharmacies were effective in improving adherence by 7% to 27%.

At the Front Line and Future of Care

Pharmacists are at the front line of healthcare, so why are we seeing this disconnect? Pharmacists are in a position to make a significant impact on health efforts, which positively impacts much of the healthcare system. One solution to the complexities and cost of healthcare certainly seem to include a reevaluation of the role of pharmacy and the potential for an expanded role as a key member of the healthcare team.  Further, the opportunity to leverage new patient and pharmacist digital platforms can help drive connections and care.

It’s certainly a new era of digital health.  And it very well may be the new era for the pharmacist too!

Last Updated: April 3, 2015