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Pharmacists Take on Broader Role, Authority in Health Care

Involvement on care teams boosts hospitals’ bottom lines

Like other nonphysician providers, pharmacists are assuming a more prominent role in health care, allowing them to solidify their relationships with patients and improve outcomes, according to an article posted on the FierceHealthcare website.

In California, a new law expanded the authority of pharmacists in that state, giving them the leeway to provide birth control directly to patients as well as to offer travel medications, laboratory tests, and smoking-cessation medications, Sarah McBane, president of the California Pharmacists Association, told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Historically, pharmacists have taken a background role in the care process, but they are now focusing on the provider–patient relationship, and many have separate spaces or rooms available so that they can discuss issues with patients in private, McBane said.

A new study in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association also demonstrates the larger role pharmacists can play in patient care. Canadian researchers analyzed blood pressure control in type-2 diabetes patients and found that adding pharmacists to primary care teams resulted in a significant improvement in patient outcomes. Seeking to identify the specific pharmacist interventions that contributed to better outcomes, the investigators found that the patients’ blood pressure was twice as likely to improve after a change in their hypertension medications. A pharmacist’s presence, Simpson said, allowed time to reconcile and manage medications and to identify drug-related problems.

In 2013, FiercHealthcare reported that a seat at the table for clinical pharmacists could also help hospitals’ bottom lines, as medication errors are a major driver of preventable readmissions. By having pharmacists and providers collaborate on discharge medications, the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis cut 30-day readmissions by 40%.

In addition, Lancaster (Pennsylvania) General Health, a nonprofit system with 623 licensed beds, had its pharmacy department work with clinicians on standardization and utilization efforts. Lancaster General pharmacists, cardiologists, emergency medicine providers, and hospitalist physicians engaged in an education campaign about the lower cost of available alternative therapies and saved the hospital approximately $130,000 a year.

Sources: FierceHealthcare; June 17, 2015; San Diego Union-Tribune; June 15, 2015; JAPhA; May–June 2015; and FierceHealthcare; September 6, 2013.

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