Recognizing Pharmacists and Their Role in Patient Care

The following is a guest post from Marissa Salvo, Pharm.D. Assistant Clinical Professor, University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy Clinical Pharmacist, Community Health Center, Inc. Meriden

What does the slogan “Know Your MEDICINE, Know Your PHARMACIST” mean to you? Chances are, unless you were watching one of the early morning shows on October 6th, where pharmacists and student pharmacists shared its meaning on national TV, you never heard this slogan. This is the theme and core message of American Pharmacists Month celebrated every October. The month-long observance recognizes pharmacists’ dedication and contributions to patient care. In addition, pharmacists strive to educate the public, health care providers, and policy makers about the benefits of including a pharmacist on the medical team to improve patient care through safe and effective medication use and adherence. As noted on the Pharmacists Association Web site, ultimately their efforts result in a reduction of health care costs. Poor medication adherence can lead to worsening of the medical condition, adverse health events, and avoidable health care costs, as much as $290 billion per year.  (For more information, please check Pharmacies: Improving Health, Reducing Costs on the National Association of Chain Drugstores Web site and Medication Adherence: Making the Case for Increased Awareness. Script your Future Web site).

Medication non-adherence includes failing to fill a prescribed medication, delaying prescription refills, and reducing the frequency of use or the dose (i.e. cutting tablets). Studies show that 50-60% of individuals with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, and high blood pressure, take medications as prescribed. (see Medication Adherence: Making the Case for Increased Awareness. Script your Future Web site for more information) Non-adherence can be due to numerous reasons such as cost and patient factors, including poor understanding of the medication’s purpose, forgetfulness, decision to omit doses, experienced or feared side effects, and complex medication directions or regimens. (See Osterberg L, Blaschke T. Adherence to Medication. NEJM. 2005;353:487-97 for more information).

Pharmacists are well positioned to engage patients in their health care, as nearly all Americans live within 5 miles of a community pharmacy. Pharmacists are also trustworthy, being rated in the top 3 of Gallup’s integrity survey for the past 8 years.(See Pharmacies: Improving Health, Reducing Costs on the National Association of Chain Drugstores Web site for more information) Pharmacists serve as excellent resources to develop care plans, provide therapy recommendations, discuss medical conditions and medication regimens, and promote medication adherence.

Within the patient-centered medical home at Community Health Center, Inc., two pharmacists, one at each site in Meriden and New Britain, serve as members of the medical team. Patients meet individually with the pharmacist to discuss their medications, medical conditions, and health maintenance. During each encounter, the pharmacist assesses the patient’s medication regimen, vital signs, laboratory work, current condition, and preventative care vaccinations and exams; these factors assist the pharmacist in determining the patient’s goals of therapy. In addition, the pharmacist provides medication recommendations to the patient’s primary care provider as necessary. Collaborating with the medical provider allows optimization of therapeutic regimens for achieving desirable clinical outcomes.

No matter the setting, pharmacists have a positive impact on patient care and medication adherence. Pharmacists’ contributions improve patients’ health and safety and reduce overall medical costs.

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