While clinical pharmacists have been around for decades, their role is gaining more prominence as the industry embraces team-based, coordinated care.
“The role depends on the practice setting that might drive dispensing or meeting clinical needs,” says Winston Wong, founder, W-Squared Group, a pharmacy consulting firm in Longboat Key, Florida. “For example, community pharmacists have always been clinical pharmacists who discuss drug therapy with patients. A pharmacist might have clinical skills and just not use them.”
In many respects, clinical pharmacists are the patient navigators of drug therapy, with much the same function of a patient navigator in an oncology practice, he adds. “Healthcare must be delivered using a team approach to be successful, and a pharmacist is a vital part of that team.”
A PwC study released on October 2016 found that if a healthcare organization were to put together a multi-disciplinary care team that includes a pharmacist, along with other healthcare professionals such as a dietician, physical therapist and mental health professional, the organization could save $1.2 million per each 10,000-patient panel.
What they do
The role of clinical pharmacists, says Terry Copeland, product leader, outpatient pharmacy solutions for Cardinal Health Innovative Delivery Systems, a global, integrated healthcare services and products company headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, includes:
· Working with physicians and other providers to recommend medications and dosing regimens tailored to each patient’s unique needs;
· Monitoring patients’ responses to drug therapy regimens;
· Providing education on medication therapy for providers and patients; and
· Counseling patients to help adherence, reduce readmissions, improve Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems scores, and achieve the desired treatment outcome as it relates to medication therapy.
Nicholas J. Ratto, PharmD, manager, consumer drug information group for First Databank, which provides drug information and insights to the industry, adds these responsibilities to the list:
· Switching a brand drug to a generic;
· Recommending a drug therapy combination that could increase adherence;
· Educating patients on properly taking their drugs;
· Avoiding drug duplications and side effects;
· Uncovering financial or access barriers to adherence; and
· Providing immunizations, infusion therapy, and cholesterol screenings in a retail setting.
“Pharmacists could, perhaps better than any other healthcare professional, address these medication issues as they have the most in-depth pharmacotherapy experience,” Ratto wrote in a recent blog. “They could move beyond their typical medication dispensing role and engage closely with patients on clinical care.”
Copeland agrees that clinical pharmacists are assuming more responsibility for direct patient care, focusing on medication history interviews with patients and handling medication therapy training, both during a patient’s stay and upon discharge.