From identifying alternative prescriptions covered at a lower cost by a patient’s plan to serving as an educator on disease management, pharmacists can play a huge role in aiding patient care.
Asked to define a patient’s care team, physicians will likely name everyone from their in-practice staff to caregivers and family members.
But for many of the reasons outlined in this issue’s cover story, pharmacists should be added to that circle of those working to improve the patient’s well-being. From identifying alternative prescriptions covered at a lower cost by a patient’s plan to serving as an educator on disease management, pharmacists can play a huge role in aiding patient care. They can also fill significant gaps in small practices who lack staff to address these concerns and others.
Perhaps Amina Abubakar, PharmD, owner of a community pharmacy in Charlotte, North Carolina, puts it best: “It’s about total care now – doing everything in our power to get the patients well.”
Now, I realize this may be hard to do at big-box store pharmacies, where it can be difficult to find a consistent point of contact. And I realize some physicians question the education level / years of experience and knowledge base of pharmacists, but hear me out.
Independent pharmacies are generally willing and able to assist physician practices on many levels. And they face many of the same business struggles as independent medical practices. From a lack of interoperability in computer systems to spending numerous hours on the phone arguing with payers about what’s covered and for how much, private physicians and independent pharmacists have a lot in common.
By no means am I suggesting that physicians relinquish patient care to pharmacists. What I am recommending is that doctors reach out to any and all care partners with whom they share patients to provide true “quality-based care”-driven not by metrics but by the goal of ensuring that a patient truly gets better.
And pharmacists can be that partner. Many larger practices have already added clinical pharmacies not only for the convenience of patients, but to harness this knowledge within their walls. Practices without pharmacies can do the same. Set up a lunch with a local pharmacist. Have them visit your practice and meet your staff (especially those whose responsibilities include calling in prescriptions for patients; having a face behind a name goes a long way.)
Work together to make your patients’ lives better. And while you’re at it, why not collaborate on some of those quality metrics that address patient outcomes? Pharmacists are also under the “MACRA microscope” and jump through the same hoops to prove their value that physicians do.
So the next time you take a call from a pharmacist with a question or an inquiry, see it as an opportunity to recruit a new care partner to increase patient success.
Keith L. Martin is editorial director of
Medical Economics. Do you think pharmacists can help primary care physicians?
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