By: Shivani Shah, PharmD Candidate c/o 2021
Pharmacists are the primary drug experts in the medical field. Medication reconciliation, patient counseling, and creating drug therapy regimens are important components of health care which are the pharmacist’s responsibility. Many pharmacists are commonly seen behind the counter at your local CVS or Walgreens, glued to a computer screen arguing with insurance companies and stapling labels to prescription bags. However, the role of the pharmacist is evolving into one that revolves around patient care and collaboration with other healthcare professions.
In its most recent publication, “Best Practices for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Program,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls attention to the important role pharmacists play in health care and recognizes the value of a pharmacy degree in a team-based care practice model.1 Once a patient is diagnosed with a cardiovascular disease, their risk of stroke and heart attack significantly increases. With a pharmacist on the health care team, the patient is able to receive the best guidance and medication regimen to ensure such occurrences are circumvented. Consulting with the physician and coming up with a therapy that best suits the patient’s lifestyle as well as one that is practical for the patient ensures the best outcome.
The expanded role pharmacists play in patient care is seen at a hypertension clinic at the Caring Health Center in Springfield, Massachusetts which is run by Victoryn Williams, PharmD, MBA. When asked what is so unique about a pharmacist-led clinic, Dr. Williams stated, “The beauty of a pharmacist-led clinic is that patients can come in and see us more frequently for monitoring and to address any questions or concerns they have regarding their medication regimen.”2 Doctor’s visits are often rushed and patients do not have a chance to go over their medications and ask questions. Clinics that are solely run by pharmacists for the purpose of answering questions and monitoring patient health status better achieve optimal care results. Working to improve heart health is one of the many ways pharmacists can make a difference in patient care.
The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis that is very rampantly enveloping our nation. Clinical pharmacists at the Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia, California are taking on an innovative approach to deal with pain management and medication safety in patients that take opioid medications. They have implemented a two-pronged approach to helping patients safely and effectively control their pain which includes on-request consultations with patients who are admitted to the hospital’s medical or surgical floors, and an opioid stewardship program.3 The consultation service allows pharmacists to make recommendations to the health care team regarding the patient’s pain management regimen. They can increase, decrease, or change a medication dosage based on their professional judgment after a verbal assessment of the patient’s pain complaint. The opioid stewardship program includes a daily review of facility-generated electronic reports that identify high-risk patients on the basis of certain criteria including having their pain needs over met, having their pain needs under met and having multiple diseases which require them to be on many medications.3 Many opioid addictions stem from hospital treatment, therefore, discharge counseling and inpatient counseling are crucial pharmacist responsibilities which have the potential to minimize risk of opioid abuse.
Pharmacists play a crucial role in collaborative patient care. The didactic coursework taught during the initial years of pharmacy school gives pharmacy professionals the clinical knowledge and skill set to make appropriate decisions regarding drug therapy regimens and how to best assess patients. Experiential education through Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experiences (IPPEs) and Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPEs) gives pharmacy students hands-on experience in the real world and an idea of the role pharmacists play in the pharmaceutical arena. It is important that pharmacists continue creating innovative ways to get involved in team-based patient care to improve all patients’ health prospects.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Best Practices for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Programs. https://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/pubs/docs/Best-Practices-Guide-508.pdf
- Weitzek, K. Patient Care Shines when Pharmacists are Part of the Team. APhA Pharmacy Today. 2018.
- Erikson, A. Knocking out Pain: Hospital Pharmacists launch new approach to pain management. APhA Pharmacy Today. 2015.