by David Pope, PharmD, CDE, Chief Innovation Officer
More pharmacists are scheduling patient appointments and providing billable clinical services with patients than ever before. Immunizations have been an effective and profitable entry into clinical services for pharmacies, with 90 percent of pharmacies today providing an immunization service. The list of additional medical services, such as diabetes education and tobacco cessation, has grown exponentially in recent years but there’s still a lot of room to grow. Retail pharmacy is becoming a health hub for the community, and as we start a new decade, now is the time to engage in the ‘primary care pharmacist’ model.
So why are medical services such a significant area of growth in pharmacy? Pharmacists are demonstrating value by delivering education, accountability and diagnostic screenings that improve outcomes and lower overall healthcare costs. And the industry taking note.
A great example is chronic disease management. A study published in The Annals of Pharmacotherapy showed that patients who received care that included pharmacist involvement had adjusted A1c levels reduced by an average of 1.38 percentage points compared to those without pharmacist involvement. This is a clinically meaningful improvement, making it three times as likely for patients to achieve an A1c level of less than 7 percent when a pharmacist is engaged in care.
As a result of this and other studies that have demonstrated the value of pharmacists engaging in clinical care, multiple states have passed landmark laws that allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control, cholesterol medications, administer flu tests and more. Additionally, payers are noticing and are increasingly allowing pharmacists as medical providers into their preferred networks, even in states where provider status laws have yet to be passed.
The pharmacy landscape is rapidly changing to include service-based approaches that are proving to be a major factor in healthcare reform. Pharmacists face a unique opportunity to embrace the role of a ‘primary-care pharmacist’ while maintaining their role as the purveyors of medicine.