Pharmacists and Patient Care: A New Model

More than ever, pharmacists are playing an important role in patient care. Instructors who remember the way things used to be—when pharmacists just counted pills, compounded medicines, and never gave advice—need to make their students aware of the enhanced scope of the profession. Here are three things instructors can keep in mind in their lessons:

Pharmacy has gotten much more clinical

Pharmacists are no longer the white-coated professionals who count and pour pills into little amber vials. As Jim O’Dea, the president and CEO of RxEDGE points out in “The New Pharmacy Model: Taking Care and Treatment to a Higher Level” (PM360, Feb. 9 2015), “Pharmacies are now taking on a more proactive role in health and wellness and are becoming an integral component of the overall healthcare system. They are establishing a new position in the marketplace that is not only beneficial from a business perspective but also has a direct positive impact on the well-being of patients and their communities.”

According to O’Dea, though the clinical pharmacy model has been around since the 1970s, regulatory and economic factors, in addition to technological advances, have pushed pharmacies into the forefront of patient care. As a result, retail pharmacies have equipped their staff with the tools to provide more services to patients. “One example of this is the dramatic increase in the number of pharmacists trained to deliver vaccinations, which nearly tripled between 2007 and 2011,” O’Dea says. “Additionally, it is estimated that the number of retail clinics within U.S. pharmacies will double from 1,418 to more than 2,868 by 2015. With 27% of adults reporting that they have gone to a retail clinic for medical care, the potential reach of such clinics cannot be underestimated.”

And as the number of patients with diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions increases, pharmacists can play an important role in their care. Many patients may be seeing their pharmacists much more than their physicians, as they may be in the pharmacy getting refills two to three times a month. And technology allows pharmacists to proactively monitor patient adherence to medications.

Pharmacy careers go way beyond the corner or chain drugstore

Maybe a student doesn’t want to go into retail pharmacy at all, and desires to have a career with a lot more patient interaction. That student can look into becoming a consultant pharmacist, which according to the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP), provides expert advice on using medicines to individuals or institutions. Most often these are for senior patients.

These pharmacists practice in a variety of settings, including sub-acute care and assisted living facilities, psychiatric hospitals, hospice programs, and in-home and community-based care. According to the ASCP, the goal of a consultant pharmacist is to enhance the quality of care for the elderly through the appropriate use of medication and by promoting healthy living. The ASCP has a handy fact sheet to download on the functions of a consultant pharmacist.

Clinical pharmacists provide more than just a service

Clinical pharmacists, according to the American Pharmacists Association in a December 2013 blog post, not only care for patients and their medication needs, but they also need to ensure the patient is getting optimal therapeutic outcomes. The writer quotes the American College of Clinical Pharmacy’s definition of clinical pharmacy and states that the clinical pharmacist provides care, not just services, and has direct interaction with and observation of patients.

Within a healthcare system, a clinical pharmacist is an objective, evidence-based source of medical therapeutic information and consults with patients and other clinicians on therapy.

The role of pharmacists in patient care will continue to expand, and as instructors, you can provide students with the understanding of what is the true value of clinical pharmacy in the patient care continuum.

Please download our white paper Case Studies in Patient Communication to learn more on the role of pharmacists in patient care.

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