Valuable Services from Pharmacists That Can Boost Physician Relationships and Improve Patient Outcomes

As medication experts, pharmacists bring a variety of important skillsets to the table including medication therapy management (MTM), immunizations, and point-of-care testing. As pharmacists’ roles continue to expand during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic through testing and vaccine administration, it is critical they market these valuable services to physicians to enhance communication and improve patient health outcomes.

Pharmacists also provided clinical contributions globally during the pandemic as essential frontline healthcare providers.1 The “4 Ps” of marketing include product, price, place, and promotion, and pharmacists can showcase their services and knowledge to physicians using various strategies.2

Community Setting Marketing Tools

Evidence clearly demonstrates that pharmacist-physician collaboration improves health outcomes in primary care clinics.3 One trial involved 32 medical offices in 15 states, and a pharmacist practiced within each office to make clinical recommendations for patients with hypertension.3 Mean systolic blood pressure was 7.3 mm Hg lower in study participants from racial minority groups who received the pharmacist intervention compared to the control group (p=0.0042).3 Also, individuals with < 12 years of education in the pharmacist intervention group had a systolic blood pressure 8.1 mm Hg lower than the control group with the same education level.3 The study demonstrated the pharmacist intervention reduced racial and socioeconomic disparities in blood pressure treatment.3 Pharmacists can provide these results through a short presentation to physicians to build collaborative practices for a variety of disease states, especially for patients with healthcare disparities.

Collaborative practice agreements (CPAs) are voluntary, formal relationships between pharmacists and physicians that authorize pharmacists to perform a variety of patient activities including initiating drug therapy, ordering laboratory tests, and conducting physical assessments.4 The best way pharmacists can establish a relationship with physicians is to reach out to prescribers who the pharmacist knows based on the patient prescriptions at the community pharmacy.5

It is also important to build a positive rapport with the clinical coordinator and nursing staff to help establish a CPA.4,5 Contacting specialists including dermatologists, cardiologists, and endocrinologists about partnering with the pharmacy services is also a great way to expand the healthcare network.5 Visiting the prescriber’s office to make a pitch about pharmacy services can help to build a strong pharmacist-physician relationship.5 Discuss the services that the pharmacy offers (e.g., MTM, medical supplies, disease state management, immunizations, point-of-care testing) along with examples of improved health outcomes and patient testimonials.5

Promoting Oncology Pharmacist-Physician Relationships in the Health System

Oncology pharmacists are valuable and trusted members of the healthcare team, and they continue to play an important role in preventing medication errors and navigating drug shortages amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.6 The Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA) recently published an op-ed and white paper discussing expanded roles for oncology pharmacists.6,7 Oncology drugs fall under the umbrella of specialty medications and are associated with high costs and toxicities.6 Therefore, developing oncology pharmacist-physician collaborations are critical to manage patients’ drug therapies and improve clinical outcomes.

Within hospital systems, the three pillars of value-based cancer care focus on patients, providers, and data.7 Pharmacists work with physicians through value-based care to select the best treatment plan for each patient and ensure the medications are dosed appropriately and supportive care is provided.7 Additionally, pharmacists incorporate cost discussions with physicians and patients to ensure therapies are affordable to prevent adherence or access issues.7 Pharmacists play an important role in the Oncology Care Model by developing and updating pathways, establishing a formulary review schedule that includes new data and novel therapies, and updating guidelines.7

Oncology pharmacists should discuss their important skillset with physicians with examples such as implementing safe medication practices, managing drug therapies, monitoring for adverse effects, and providing education.6 Developing continuing education programs for physicians on new drug approvals and treatment guideline updates is a great way for pharmacists to showcase their knowledge and provide a valuable service for providers to stay up-to-date with the latest drug information. Oncology pharmacists can also administer COVID-19 vaccines and educate about their importance for patients with cancer, since they are at high risk of severe COVID-19.8 Promoting these public health initiatives to physicians is vital as pharmacists are playing a critical role in COVID-19 vaccination across the United States.

References:

1. Goff DA, Ashiru-Oredope D, Cairns KA, et al. “Global Contributions of Pharmacists During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” J Am Coll Clin Pharm. Published online October 2, 2020; doi: 10.1002/jac5.1329.

2. Perepelkin JJ. “Why Pharmacists Should Not Think of Marketing as a Dirty Word.” Can Pharm J. 2014; 147(1):15-19. doi: 10.1177/1715163513513866.

3. Anderegg MD, Gums TH, Uribe L, Coffey CS, James PA, Carter PL. “Physician-pharmacist Collaborative Management: Narrowing the Socioeconomic Blood Pressure Gap.” Hypertension. 2016; 68(5): 1314-1320. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.116.08043.

4. NCPA. “Prescriber collaboration.” https://ncpa.org/prescriber-collaboration. Accessed April 5, 2021.

5. Bradley R. “How to Build Relationships with Prescribers in Your Community.” Good Neighbor Pharmacy. https://www.wearegnp.com/insights/how-to-build-relationships-with-prescribers-in-your-community. Published November 4, 2019. Accessed April 5, 2021.

6. DeRemer D, Liewer S. “The Value of Oncology Pharmacists Op-ed.” Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association. https://www.hoparx.org/images/hopa/advocacy/Issue-Briefs/Value_of_Hem-Onc_Pharmacists_Op-Ed_021021_FINAL.pdf. Accessed April 6, 2021.

7. Fares M, Heron BB, Atienza S, et al. “Value of Cancer Care Forum: Pharmacy Call to Action.” J Hematol Oncol Pharm. 2020; 10(4):212-219.

8. CDC. “People with Certain Medical Conditions.” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html. Updated March 29, 2021. Accessed April 6, 2021.

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