During Mrs. E’s annual comprehensive medication review (CMR), her pharmacist, an MTM (Medication Therapy Management) specialist who works with chronically-ill patients requiring a strict regimen of medications to keep themselves healthy, noticed that her pharmacy had filled both a 250mg and a 500mg prescription, shipping each medication to her home at different times.
Despite being a long-time asthma sufferer who has diligently taken her inhaled glucocorticoid for nearly two decades, even Mrs. E sometimes needs someone to help her understand and keep track of her medications.
Her life literally depends on it.
Without a CMR with her pharmacist, Mrs. E could have taken both prescriptions by mistake.
Duplicative medications can have life-threatening effects if not proactively addressed before an adverse drug event (ADE) occurs.
And this happens on a daily basis all over the country.
Pharmacists, who know more about medication than any other clinician, are the most qualified physicians to watch for problems like these.
They’re not only experts on prescription medication, they know how different medications interact.
And when two different physicians prescribe medications that could cause dangerous side effects when taken together (or when taken with a specific food or over-the-counter medication), pharmacists can save lives.
They have a big part to play in keeping us safe and healthy—and an even bigger role in the future of the healthcare system.
The Future of Healthcare is in the Hands of Pharmacists
“Today’s clinicians feel overstretched. And they expect the pressures of the job to increase in the next 10 years. Increasing the focus on clinician well-being is identified as a leading priority by clinicians and will be crucial to overcoming burnout and workforce shortages.
- 26% of clinicians globally say well-being support is a priority.
- 74% say there will be a shortage of nurses, and 88% say there will be a shortage of physicians.
- While 85% of clinicians said they enjoyed their jobs, only 57% felt they had a good work-life balance.”
This is partially due to the trauma created by the pandemic, but many clinicians feel that they don’t have the time to dedicate to their patients in ways that make a real difference.
Many pharmacists feel that patients are falling through the cracks, and this can be hard on the mental health of someone who is a clinical expert and has dedicated their professional life to caring for others.
This is where pharmacists shine: caring directly for patients.
In looking toward the future of healthcare and the heroes who will drive it, let’s take a look at what pharmacists can do (that you may not have ever considered).
5 Things You Didn’t Know a Pharmacist Could Do:
1/ Bridge the gap between patients and providers.
Pharmacists are in a unique position to assist healthcare providers to serve their patients better simply because they are:
- More accessible to patients in numerous settings,
- Highly-trained clinicians who know more about medication interactions than most physicians, and
- Included under HIPAA–so they can see comprehensive medication lists in order to cross-reference medication interactions.
As well, when pharmacists hear something troubling that could cause harm to the patient, they are in a position to give sound advice and communicate directly with prescribing physicians (requesting a different prescription, suggesting emergency care, or scheduling a routine follow-up appointment).
When pharmacists work alongside physicians to keep people safe, stress is lowered for the entire care team.
2/ Understand medication interactions better than most.
Pharmacists study how prescription medications interact with certain food and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. In fact, they possess a far greater understanding of all medications—more so than any other clinician.
Think about it.
Your cardiologist knows about medications that treat the human heart. Your rheumatologist knows about pain medication and how it provides relief to those suffering from auto-immune diseases.
But pharmacists must understand it ALL.
And pharmacists are actually doctors (Doctor of Pharmacy, abbreviated Pharm.D.).
Many patients don’t realize that.
Pharmacists spend between six and eight years in college and train to take (and pass) both the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) and the North American Pharmacist Licensing Exam (NAPLEX).
They must have a firm grasp on:
- Human anatomy
- Pharmaceutical chemistry
And for good reason.
The number of prescription medications has more than doubled over the last ten years, and we need trained clinicians who understand how they interact in order to best serve patients.
3/ Watch for signs of medication interactions
Have you ever been to your local pharmacy and asked for clarification about a medication that your healthcare provider prescribed?
Or inquired about the right cough medicine to give your toddler? Or called to speak to a pharmacist because you didn’t feel well after taking a new medication for the first time?
Overall, patients tend to feel that physicians are busy and don’t have the time to deal with a medication-related question that may be significant to us but minor to them.
When pharmacists can spend quality time listening to patients, they can often catch “minor” issues that could deteriorate into adverse health events.
In this way, pharmacists are best equipped to make a real difference in the ever-changing healthcare landscape.
Pharmacists can also be a quick-to-reach resource for recommending over-the-counter remedies for common ailments, without the cost and time of getting to a physician’s office.
They’re experts at spotting signs of food or over-the-counter medication interactions with prescribed medications, and when patients are allowed to speak with pharmacists, they can often spot those issues quickly and educate patients on OTC alternatives before emergent issues arise.
4/ Help health plans and physicians understand patient non-adherence.
Some of the issues in a patient’s life that causes medication non-adherence relate back to social determinants of health (SDOH), and a pharmacist can often spot these obstacles, and more, during a consultation.
For example, a patient could be struggling with maintaining consistent transportation to and from doctor appointments, local lab for blood work, or their pharmacy.
Patients who live alone might need assistance keeping track of their medication.
Patients with SDOH like these are often willing and able to speak to a pharmacist over the phone who can make a positive impact when it comes to driving medication adherence.
Pharmacists can communicate with healthcare providers and health plans to help them understand how and why specific patients need extra–or different–care.
5/ Coach patients toward well-being and self-care.
When pharmacists are given the time to listen and create strong health partnerships with their patients, they build trust which inspires patients to be more forthcoming with their issues.
As trusted, neutral guides and clinicians, they can provide valuable advice about exercise, nutrition, and other self-care-related issues that inspire patients toward adherence that make a real difference.
Pharmacists are going through a transformation in their profession, too.
Many want to spend more time assisting patients with the very unique, specialized training, skills, and knowledge they’ve worked so hard to attain.
Many are pivoting toward delivering meaningful patient care over the long term. In fact, the interest in pharmacists providing medication therapy management (MTM) has skyrocketed. The personal desire to help patients AND other physicians navigate the complexities of modern medicine and the medications prescribed.
But they also want (and deserve) to live a balanced and whole life.
With a projected 74% decline in healthcare providers over the next ten years—and an increase in prescribed medications—Aspen RxHealth allows pharmacists to be the clinicians we need for the future of the healthcare system.
And Mrs. E?
She’s a real patient in the care of an Aspen RxHealth pharmacist.
Her story is one of the thousands we hear at Aspen RxHealth because we believe in providing pharmacists the opportunity to live a fulfilling life – personally and professionally.
The future of the healthcare system depends on striking a balance between the needs of patients and the real lives of clinicians, and Aspen RxHealth is walking hand in hand with pharmacists and their patients toward that balance.
Our pharmacists are matched with patients in the community who need their specific expertise the most, which allows them to be the clinicians they are truly trained and desire to be for their patients.
Are you a pharmacist in need of that kind of balance? Click here to join the pharmacist community and serve patients through Aspen RxHealth, and find the right balance between your best work and your best life.
Are you a health plan hoping to partner with a team that will help keep your members happy and healthy?
Aspen RxHealth is that team.