Pharmacist Burnout: A Cry for a Transformative Approach to Traditional Pharmacy Practice

For original article, visit Pharmacy Times

Challenges such as overwrought performance goals that create insurmountable stress, a lack of control coupled with a flood of new graduates willing to work for low wages to pay off student debt, and dismally low reimbursement are all driving toward one result: pharmacist burnout.

The danger of attempting to deliver patient care in such taxing conditions has quickly become more concerning than rampant workplace dissatisfaction. But, with adverse drug reactions (ADR) representing the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and Canada behind heart disease, cancer, and stroke. the value of the pharmacist has never been more apparent. Why the juxtaposition?

Mounting Pressure with Little Relief in Sight
Facing performance metrics, such as prescription fill and immunization quotas, along with the pressure of counseling patients, and phoning physicians and insurance companies, it’s no wonder many pharmacists feel it’s more difficult than ever to perform their jobs to the peak of their license.

Pharmacy services is an industry ripe for disruption. The pivot from product-based care to service-based care won’t happen overnight; however, the tides are beginning to turn thanks in part to new models designed to enable pharmacists to take control of their careers and practice quality patient-centric care.

By focusing squarely on the patient and delivering clinical services without the business distractions, pharmacists are beginning to recall the reason they chose this profession in the first place.

As a pharmacist myself and someone who has been at the forefront of driving practice change, I wholeheartedly understand the pursuit of achieving provider status, yet also am aware of the challenges of such a pursuit. New services such as immunizations and medication therapy management within the pharmacy setting has often times added additional layers of complexity as pharmacists juggle the delicate balance of integrating clinical services into traditional dispensing environments, while being forced into performance metrics set forth by corporate entities.

A New Way of Delivering Care, From Anywhere
As society shifts to cope with the global pandemic, previously existing models that drove adoption of personal delivery of care outside of pharmacies are taking shape. Opportunities for pharmacists to work with patients must also evolve to account for remote deliveries of care and telehealth models. And consumer demand has arrived.

According to a recent McKinsey & Company COVID-19 consumer survey, consumer adoption of telehealth has skyrocketed from 11% of US consumers using telehealth in 2019 to 46% of consumers now using telehealth to replace canceled health care visits.

McKinsey’s survey also found that approximately 76% of consumers are highly or moderately likely to use telehealth in the future. Seventy-four percent of people who had used telehealth reported high satisfaction.

Beyond simply meeting patient demand, pharmacists are identifying alternative models of care delivery that bring them closer to patients whether they are associated with a brick and mortar location or not, choosing to adopt an individual practitioner approach to delivering care. For this precise reason, emerging models of telehealth that enhance the pharmacist-patient relationship and create longitudinal relationships are needed more than ever before. 

For patients with complex and chronic conditions taking multiple medications, one-on-one conversations with their pharmacist are critical for ensuring medication understanding and adherence.

It is through these longitudinal relationships that consistency of care and awareness of the patient’s socioeconomic conditions can be established. It is only then that potential barriers to care are likely to be identified, and the pharmacist can treat the patient to drive the most favorable patient outcomes.

The Future of Pharmacy
What if patients could be intelligently matched with clinical pharmacists based on a multitude of key social and clinical factors? With the right technology, they can. Matching patients to pharmacists based on condition-specific expertise, for example, can increase the likelihood for patient adherence and successful medication management.

By furthering the use of new technology and increasing the use of data mining we can identify both ideal matches for patients and their pharmacists—as well as their responses to those clinicians who drive quality of care over time to build the best relationships and patient loyalty and affinity toward their health plan.  

For the first time, care and outcomes will be measured at the clinician level. Today, pharmacists work behind another brand. Now, pharmacists can cultivate their own brand and deliver care as a provider, driving quality and improved outcomes.

As these new models emerge, pharmacists are now able to establish their own panel of patients that they manage over time, acting as a consumer-focused health care provider who provides more value than simply dispensing medication. Now and in the future, pharmacists will be recognized for the care and value they are delivering.

Deviating from quotas tied to dispensing and vaccinations, they’ll evolve into becoming advocates for their patients, improving medication use and driving adherence while creating longitudinal relationships that evolve over time.

By working directly with patients in patient-care environments, pharmacists will continue to establish their own professional practices, ultimately deciding when and from where they want to work. From notable brands such as Facebook and Slack, we have already seen dramatic shifts toward remote-based work, and pharmacy is no different.

As long as pharmacists can remain accessible and connected to their patients, they can reside wherever they choose, working the days and times that suit them and their families. The pandemic has proven that flexible work schedules are needed and if they are not achieved, many professionals have left the workforce in droves.

According to NPR, of the 1.1 million people who left the job market in September, more than 860,000 were women. We see the same demand for flexibility here at Aspen RxHealth, which is what drove us to create the largest community of pharmacists in the nation.

By allowing our pharmacists to “step away from the counter,” maintain autonomy over their careers, set their own practice hours, and determine from where they wish to work, we see significant satisfaction level.

As someone who has dedicated my professional life to driving change in pharmacy, I could not be more optimistic. The technology has finally arrived that allows pharmacists to achieve provider-like status and has opened the gates for clinical pharmacists to drive clinical improvements across the health care continuum.

Works Cited


Meet Aspen RxHealth – A Revolution In Pharmacist-led clinical care

MTM services

Aspen RxHealth is an on-demand community of more than 4,000 clinical pharmacists that are intelligently matched to health plan members to improve health outcomes and quality measures. Below is our recent interview with Clayton Walberg, Chief Commercial Officer at Aspen RxHealth:

Q: Could you provide our readers with a brief introduction to Aspen RxHealth?

A: Think Uber + – replace drivers with pharmacists and riders with patients.
When members require clinical services, a pharmacist is matched to them based on key social and clinical markers such as disease state, medication regimen, language, geographic relevance, and other consumer indicators. A predetermined engagement is then activated to drive health outcomes. In some cases, we may provide a single service, such as Comprehensive Medication Reviews in support of Medicare guidelines and Star measures. In others, we may build a long term relationship from our match assisting a patient longitudinally; e.g. assisting HIV patients in medication management and adherence.

The on-demand, flexible nature of our pharmacist community allows us to develop unique engagement strategies specific to each client and adapt effortlessly to their changing needs.

Q: Can you give us more insights into your product?

A: Our app-based technology is the key to delivering world class clinical services. We approach our product strategy through three key areas: patient experience, pharmacist experience; and enabling tech, data and outcomes improvement.

For our patients, via our crowd-sourcing approach, we have created a highly diverse community of clinical pharmacists operating in a gig-economy model. This diversity drives our pharmacist to patient matching improving member satisfaction and outcomes.

For example, our pharmacist community,

  • Speaks 15+ languages.
  • Resides in all 50 states.
  • Provides more than 25 clinical pharmacist specialties and accreditations.
  • Delivers diversity with multiple ethnicities, age bands and 50/50 gender representation in the community.
  • Allows patients to choose “my pharmacist” creating a longitudinal relationship with their preferred pharmacist.
  • Captures user ratings on their experience with our pharmacists.
  • Support members’ specific engagements that drive the most relevant engagement between members and the pharmacist.

By matching members with the most applicable pharmacist, we drive improved experience and outcomes for our client’s members. For our pharmacists, we provide community and options that include working from anywhere and practicing at the top of the license. This provides a level of professional satisfaction and opportunity not readily available in the market. Aspen pharmacists can dedicate time to carefully analyze a patient’s treatment plan, assess potential medication interactions and develop engaged, holistic and positive relationships — on their schedule, where they want, freed from the time-consuming task of dispensing medications. In the background, our technology seamlessly identifies and connects them to patients in need of their specific area of interest or training, allowing clinical practice at the top of their license and training.

Founded by pharmacists with deep experience in clinical pharmacy data, our approach to data, analytics and outcomes has been approached with clinical rigor. For example, our advanced clinical decision support engine identifies and matches the most relevant patient care interventions, to the specific social and clinical attributes patients need and provides the ability to “surge” the network to respond to near-term risk or time-sensitive populations (I.e. COVID susceptible education) and provide real-time engagement analytics and network capacity feedback.

Q: Can you tell us something more about work opportunities for pharmacists?

A: The need to improve medication adherence, reduce errors and improve chronic care management rise every year. Increased medication options, greater complexities and escalating costs account for hundreds of billions of healthcare spend. While brick and mortar pharmacies have made significant strides, the growing trend of mail order delivery and virtualized services highlights the need to deliver clinical pharmacy in a more personalized way. Aspen RxHealth allows our pharmacist to operate at the peak of their license and exercise their years of clinical training.

Medication Therapeutic Management (MTM), care transition gaps, and specialty medication support increasingly require an on-demand, personalized model. These factors elevate the role of the pharmacist and require more patient-centric connections focused on optimizing the use of medications. The pharmacists in the Aspen RxHealth community are enabled to do just this, while empowering patients with action plans and the education to drive profound impact on outcomes.

All while, working from anywhere, with flexible hours, and creating a secondary or primary income source.

Q: What can we expect from Aspen RxHealth in next 12 months?

A: Within the last few months, our pharmacy community has expanded to support all 50 states. National expansion in support of our health plan clients is next. We’ve also devoted time to deepen our technologies to managing discrete quality measures (Star, HEDIS) and support longitudinal interventions focused on drug spend, chronic conditions and high risk segments such as diabetes, cardiac, HIV, etc. Expect to see increased engagements in the Medicaid populations where many of the most socially vulnerable struggle with health literacy and day to day medication management.