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America, vanished into thin healthcare?

Filed in Uncategorized — February 20, 2020

Not much compares to the feeling of reassurance. We take risks, second guess our choices, and question our purpose regularly as we move through life. Reassurance comes in the form of our loved ones cheering us on, awards for our successes, and compliments from the ones we serve. Reassurance is a welcome feeling when we are stressed or feeling complacent. Keep going. You are on the right path. You will make a difference. Very few of us can reach success without these words – without reassurance. Pharmacy school, like many professional schools, is a very stressful time. You fight for your seat, test every other day, and try your best to fit the entirety of the pharmaceutical world into your brain before graduation. Your professors fill you with energy and purpose, pharmacists from all sectors arrive to share the difference they are making in their patients, and you round through rotation after rotation exploring just how much America leans on their drug experts. Most of our fellow pharmacists can relate to the invigoration for our profession that one finds in school. It’s true – our nation saves more and more money the further pharmacists are integrated into the health systems and the stats are endless. We as a country spend almost $300 billion annually on medication non-adherence and adverse drug reactions. Almost 50% of people taking medications for chronic diseases do not take them correctly making improper medication use is one of the main causes of hospitalizations. Some states have taken a deep dive into just how much patients benefit from pharmacist integration – one state citing that every dollar spent on a pharmacist resulted in the state saving $4.40. Understand that those savings are actually patients not going to the hospital or being put on improper regimens – the savings are directly related to a healthier community. If you are a student pharmacist wondering if you can make a difference in the healthcare, we assure you, you can. 

One solution to optimizing America’s prescription woes is simple – every time medication is involved in patient care, there should be a pharmacist screening not just the drug regimen but the individual person and their unique characteristics. Remarkable progress has been made in this realm and pharmacists continue to prove value, however, most of this occurs in hospitals and ambulatory care settings. Our wholesaler conducted a study a few years back stating that individuals visit their local pharmacist over eight times more frequently than their doctor, and that 95% of Americans live within 5 miles of a pharmacy. To every pharmacy student, it seems like retail pharmacy is poised to become an actual healthcare destination, instead of just a transaction counter and our professors agree. Upon entering the workforce, that reassurance is shaken. The reality before us is a heavily saturated market of wildly underutilized pharmacists. The impact we trained so hard to deliver in school seems to have no place in chain pharmacies. The professors and preceptors that gave us a wealth of knowledge are replaced by supervisors who have little appreciation for the quality of work pharmacists are capable of. It seems like to excel in a large corporate pharmacy, you If you must step further away from patients and absorb yourself in a computer screen. All your training in interviewing and documenting patient interaction is sidelined by initiatives to make patients use automated systems that distance them from their pharmacist. Why are we creating so much distance between America and the healthcare professional they have the most access to? 

Increased access to pharmacists is happening and much of the trailblazing is being done by our colleagues in independent pharmacy. Independent pharmacies have morphed from the friendly, nostalgic corner drug store to travel clinics, chronic disease management headquarters, and collaborative practices that operate as an extension of your primary care physician. Pharmacist business owners are approaching legislators, third party payers, and state health plans with proposals to optimize the care that our profession can deliver to patients. At Front Range Pharmacy, we plan to join our colleagues in pioneer spirit and galvanize our fellow healthcare providers to come together in new ways. We are fortunate to live in a state that believes in the not-so-progressive idea that the more access to healthcare our community has, the better it is. Colorado has passed and hopes to pass legislation that paves the way for pharmacists to stand where they are, but serve in new roles. Pharmacists are on the cusp of being able to manage HIV therapies, conduct point of care testing for common illnesses, and deliver therapy interventions all from the most common post in our profession- the retail pharmacy. Yes, your pharmacist is trained in ways that they have never been able to serve. The question we asked ourselves while working in a large chain is, when the opportunity arrives for us to do more, will our current positions allow it? The reality is we were watching the company march in the wrong direction – away from capitalizing on their biggest asset and our nation’s most accessible professional. Pharmacists can succeed in making room for our care in a payer system that clearly sees value in doing so, but only if the pharmacist has the bandwidth to step away from dispensing. At Front Range we plan to lay the ground work for dispensing medications efficiently and accurately, but also by making room for services our community will benefit from. Half the battle of becoming a resource is raising awareness of your value and we hope our community is ready and willing to work along side us for better healthcare. That would be the best dose of reassurance we could ask for.