The practice of pharmacy has endured a historic transformation over the past 30 years, moving from a paper-based world that lacked uniformity and standards to a realtime environment of connectivity and collaboration— unprecedented in any other segment of healthcare. The pharmacy industry serves as a model of what can be done when industry stakeholders unite to serve the common good of the patient.
FROM TRUSTED ADVISOR TO TRUSTED PROVIDER
Pharmacists have long enjoyed a trusted advisor status with patients, due to their accessibility (they are much easier to see than primary care physicians), knowledge, and their role in connecting the dots between clinical diagnosis and treatment. Patients generally consult with pharmacists on everything from advice on over-the-counter versus prescription medicines to health-and-wellness issues.
Physicians also recognize the value pharmacists bring to improving patient care and health outcomes. In a practice that has been around for many years, physicians and pharmacists can enter into collaborative practice agreements (CPAs), enabling pharmacists to provide medication therapy management, disease management, and other clinical services to patients. This model optimizes the role of the pharmacists, making the best use of their specialty and training. It also gives primary care providers some assurance that there is continuity of care once the patient leaves the office. And it helps to promote patient safety and compliance with treatment regimens.
Both patients and physicians benefit from pharmacist-delivered services for medications that require prior authorization and a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS). The ability to coordinate and facilitate the process of getting needed medications to patients in a timely manner and providing the required education and tools for patients and physicians has further embedded pharmacists in the patient care team.
EVIDENCE-BASED CARE GETS A BOOST
There is no doubt that today pharmacists have earned the legitimate role of a provider, and we can expect to see this role expand in the years to come. From exercising collaborative practice agreements to administering immunizations to providing other clinical services in pharmacy clinics and similar settings, pharmacists have demonstrated the real-world, evidence-based patient- and health-system value of the clinical services they deliver. In fact, in December 2011, the Office of the Chief Pharmacist, in A Report to the U.S. Surgeon General 2011, Improving Patient and Health System Outcomes through Advanced Pharmacy Practice, acknowledged the value of pharmacist-delivered services and called for policy maker support for including such models in our healthcare system.
KEEPING PATIENTS IN FOCUS
Improving patient care has been at the core of the transformation and innovation in the pharmacy industry. Pharmacists, once relegated to the role of dispenser, are now being recognized as providers of specialty services. We have abandoned a paper-based world for real-time information to improve patient safety and care. And tomorrow’s pharmacists will be trained in healthcare informatics, continuing the evolution of our practice as an integral part of the patient care team. As long as the focus continues to remain as it has on the patient, we will see the gaps in healthcare narrow and bring all stakeholders—including the patient— together in closer communication and collaboration.
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