How health execs can partner with pharmacists to address opioids

Director of medication safety and quality for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists shares how providers can better work with pharmacists to address the opioid epidemic.

Pharmacists should have an active role during the procurement, prescribing, and dispensing phases of the medication use cycle-especially with opioids, says Deborah A. Pasko, PharmD, MHA, director, medication safety and quality, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). “Pharmacists should be consulted during any clinical guideline, policy/procedure, and EHR order-set development,” says Pasko, who helps guide opioid efforts within ASHP.

Here’s more on the role Pasko says pharmacists should play with respect to opioid abuse, and how she says healthcare executives can form meaningful partnerships with them.

Managed Healthcare Executive (MHE):Should patients prescribed opioids be required to discuss with pharmacists how to properly use them? 

PaskoPasko: At this time there are no mandates or laws that require a patient to have a consultation with a pharmacist about any medication, even prescriptions for high-risk medications. Some medications do have Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy requirements, but these can be done by a provider or pharmacist. Patients who are having minor procedures and are prescribed a few pills to get them through 24 to 48 hours of pain most likely do not need a consultation with a pharmacist. However, we would strongly encourage patients having a major medical procedure, and/or experiencing a medical condition necessitating the use of opioids for more than 72 hours to have at least one interaction with a pharmacist to discuss the need for the opioid, side effects of the medication, expectations of pain control, and how to either taper down or transition off the opioid.

MHE:What interactions between the provider and pharmacist could improve the use of non-opioids in place of these narcotics?

Pasko: The pharmacist could help guide the provider on the best options on a per patient basis to determine the optimal therapeutic regimen, including the use of non-opioid medications and even non-pharmacological options. In addition, the pharmacist can follow-up with patients, given that they typically see the patient more often than the physician does.

MHE: Is it common practice currently, for healthcare executives to work with pharmacists?

Pasko: Yes, many healthcare executives do interact with pharmacists. Most commonly, this is done through the chief pharmacy officer or director of pharmacy. ASHP highly recommends that at least one person within the C-suite have a close relationship with pharmacy leadership. This relationship should involve occasional visits to the pharmacy (or pharmacies) to show organizational support for the department. In addition, the chief or director should give occasional updates to the C-suite about safety, quality, and patient metrics deemed most appropriate for the organization related to the pharmacy department’s performance. Finally, we would recommend pharmacy presence at any hospital leadership huddles and safety rounds.