Michael White, professor and department head from the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy, talks about some of the places besides drug stores where pharmacists work, as well as the work they are doing.
Below are some questions with answers provided by White.
Are there other places you can find a pharmacist working besides the local drug store?
Pharmacists practice in a variety of different settings where you might not expect to see them. For instance, in hospitals pharmacists are up on the floors working with doctors and nurses in many of the intensive care units and are being placed in more and more emergency departments and transplant services as well. Any place where patients are taking many different drugs or very expensive drugs is likely to have a pharmacist involved in helping provide care. In the community, patients in the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Indian Health Services routinely come to see pharmacists to help manage their diabetes, cholesterol, hypertension, and other chronic diseases treated with drug therapy. In some doctor’s offices and outpatient health clinics, pharmacists are providing these services but pharmacists could be doing so much more.
What do these pharmacists do in these settings?
They try to get people on the best drugs to treat their illnesses, adjust the dose of drugs for people with kidney or liver disease, monitor for adverse events to catch them before they get too bad, and prevent drug interactions by working as a part of the healthcare team. These interventions have been shown to improve patient care and reduce the total cost of care, something really needed in the current healthcare system. In studies conducted in Minnesota and right here in Connecticut, pharmacist provided direct patient care saved between $3 and $12 for every dollar it cost to provide these services.
Why aren’t more pharmacists providing services in doctor’s offices here in Connecticut?
Pharmacists in retail stores are paid for providing prescriptions to patients through something called a pharmacy benefit. The type of direct patient care we are talking about is not tied to the product and occurs within the doctor’s offices so they are paid as a medical benefit. Pharmacists have not been recognized as Medicare part B so they, and the doctors that employ them, have a hard time being reimbursed for those services. Until pharmacists become Medicare part B recognized providers, they will be hard to find in your doctor’s office. The Surgeon General’s office recently reviewed all of the studies evaluating pharmacist provided care and said that pharmacists should be included as a member of the healthcare team and that the services should be expanded. Hopefully this type of support can move legislators to recognize the value of pharmacists performing these functions.