meaningful use


“The pharmacist of tomorrow is going to be unrecognizable to most of us. He might not be a vending machine, but he’s not going to be that quiet old white-haired guy up behind the counter, either.”  –  Jim Ammen

Part of the team… 

Harnessing the power of a pharmacist’s knowledge and expertise to control healthcare costs and improve patient outcomes has been a difficult process. Those promoting the transformation of the role of the pharmacist from the traditional dispenser of medications to a dispenser of information have always been confronted with the question of “who will pay for these services”. Fortunately, since the implementation of Medicare-D, the value of pharmacists providing cognitive services, including medication therapy management MTM services, has become more widely recognized.

But even with this increased recognition, the profession of pharmacy is still facing a sort of ‘identity crisis’. “Pharmacists see themselves as having nine different identities” according to a recent @ChemistDruggist article, thus suggesting they play a ‘flexible role’ in healthcare but remain uncertain of the future.

It’s been a long time coming…

The decade long push for recognizing pharmacists as healthcare providers is finally seeing results. Recent legislation in California became law when Governor Jerry Brown signed the pharmacist provider status bill (SB 493) recognizing pharmacists as healthcare providers. I’m sure other states will be looking at similar legislation in the near future. But will the new legal recognition as providers get pharmacists a seat at the healthcare team table?

“Pharmacists are working more closely with patients and healthcare colleagues in hospitals, outreach teams, patients’ homes, residential care, team graphichospices, and general practice” reports the Royal Pharmaceutical Society @rpharms in ‘Now or Never: Shaping Pharmacy for the Future’. In the U.S. the team based care approach continues to get a foothold with pharmacists participating in patient centered medical home models, accountable care organizations and in collaborative arrangements with other healthcare providers. But we have a long road ahead until we’ll actually see a majority of pharmacists participating as a member of the healthcare team on this level.

It all makes sense…

There are areas where it’s been shown pharmacists can contribute as a first string member of the healthcare plan team. Take medication non-adherence for example. The cost of non-adherence and compliance to prescribed medication therapy has been reported to be well over $290 billion annually in the United States. This is often a direct reflection of the lack of a patient’s understanding of their particular disease state and how their medication therapy can control or improve their particular condition. This is a great example where having a pharmacist on the care plan team makes a great deal of sense, especially at any point of transitional care.

A major component of the patient care plan consists of properly treating the patient’s disease state with appropriate drug therapy. When there is a breakdown, pause or discontinuation of medication therapy by a patient, i.e. lack of medication adherence or compliance, one can almost always predict a breakdown in overall patient care. This can result in increased hospital re-admissions, lack of disease control, increased complications and of course, increased healthcare costs.

Including a pharmacist in the patient care plan process can improve patient outcomes, especially during transitional care. About 1 in 5 Medicare patients who leave the hospital are readmitted withing 30 days. “We know that people who have medication discrepancies, or are not adhering to what the health care team thought they were adhering to, have at least double the risk of becoming a readmission” reports Jane Brock, MD, of the Colorado Foundation for Medical Care. 

Pharmacists should be given the role of patient care managers and  should be performing services such as medication reconciliation, checking for potential adverse drug reactions, performing patient education and other patient oriented services such such as MTM whenever there is a transition inlogo_white medical care. They should also be directly involved with follow-up services to ensure adherence and compliance to drug therapy and report this back to the patient care plan team. Compliance to drug therapy is critical in chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension or heart disease and community pharmacists are in an ideal position to fulfill this role. 

Moving forward…

I’ve written before on the topic of pharmacists “being the healthcare provider”. As PROVIDERS of services (including MTM services) and EDUCATORS to help patients understand their medications and medical conditions, pharmacists will be recognized as a resource to ensure continuity through the transitions of healthcare, thus changing patient’s lives, improving outcomes and saving healthcare dollars.

So again I say “Be the Provider” and take an active roll as part of the patient care planning team.

Dag-nabbit! 

Walter Brennan was a familiar character in many of the western movies and television shows, including “The Real McCoys”, we watched growing up as a kids in my parent’s home. I always remember when he was angry or just really emphatic he used the word dag-nabbit often in these shows.

I was recently reminded that Walter Brennan played the role of Murph, a pharmacist, in the 1947 movie “Driftwood”. I don’t remember if he used the word “dag-nabbit” in Driftwood or not. But I can imagine him as a pharmacist using it when frustrated with patients who don’t take their medication as prescribed.

Physicians and pharmacists dedicate their lives to helping patients manage their various disease states with the help of prescription drugs. Whether it is hypertension, diabetes, COPD, Parkinson’s or any other chronic disease a patient may have… if patients don’t take their medication as prescribed their disease will progress and they may find themselves in the emergency room at the local hospital.

$300 billion dollar a year problem: 

And dag-nabbit, we’ve got a medication adherence problem in the U.S. that increased healthcare costs by over $300 billion last year! Failure to take medications correctly decreases the quality of life for these individuals and it’s estimated that failure to take prescription medications as prescribed results in over 125,000 deaths each year.  So why don’t people take their medications as prescribed?

barriers to medication adherence

There are a number of reasons people don’t take their medications correctly. Communication barriers, socio-economical barriers and motivational barriers all contribute to the medication non-adherence problem.

Forgetfulness, poor understanding of disease or illness, concerns about medication costs are all contributing factors to the non-compliance issue. So how do we work towards solving the medication adherence problem?

Solving the medication adherence problem: 

Healthcare professionals need to step up efforts to engage and educate patients to the importance of taking medication correctly. Physicians, nurses and pharmacists should increase efforts to enhance patient’s understanding of their disease and how they will benefit from taking their prescription medications appropriately. Pharmacist medication therapy management MTM has also been shown to increase adherence resulting in improved patient outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.

There are a number of organizations like Script Your Future that provide information and tools to improve medication compliance. Those who care for the elderly can also assist patients with reminders to take their medications as prescribed.

Technology can help with medication reminders and tools that improve medication adherence. Text messaging and reminders via phone are available to give personal medication reminders. There are many ‘pill reminder’ devices and systems available that have audible alarms or visual cues to remind patients it’s time to take their medication.

The LCD Compliance Card is the most accepted and used compliance device in the world. More than 10 million units have been distributed globally in several health care fields including both physician and veterinary practices.

The functions of the Compliance Card are all pre-programmed. There are no user settings. Users start the device at the desired time of day by depressing one button. There are variations of the Compliance Card that adapt to multiple regimens including daily, twice a day, or once a week.

So dag-nabbit – there really shouldn’t be any excuses not to take your medicines as prescribed!