Pharmacist Interactions Can Improve Outcomes

Dealing with a chronic condition like diabetes isn’t something most people do alone. They rely on the support of family and friends -- and of course their physician. A study published in Health Affairs highlights another important relationship: the one between the patient and their pharmacist.

Study Finds Integrated Pharmacy-Based Program Improved Diabetes Medication Initiation and Adherence Rates 

That relationship is highlighted in CVS Health’s Pharmacy Advisor program. Through Pharmacy Advisor, pharmacists use technology to identify which patients are at risk of not taking their medications as directed. These patients then receive a phone call, or in many cases, an in-person reminder from the pharmacist, who provides them with useful information on how they can better control their diabetes by being more aware and mindful of how and when they take their meds.

"This study showed that patients stay on their medications while they are actively counseled, but once those pharmacist-patient conversations ended, adherence fell quickly."

It turns out this kind of interaction has a major impact in the lives of those trying to manage the disease. Researchers at Harvard University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and CVS Health compared two groups of people who regularly filled prescriptions for diabetes. One group was counseled through the Pharmacy Advisor program and the other was not.

Patients in the group that received the counseling from their pharmacist, via the phone or face-to-face, were far more likely to check in with their prescribing doctors to make sure their treatment was on the right track. The group that was enrolled in the Pharmacy Advisor program was also collectively better at taking their medications as directed.

Providing individual attention to patients is not only good customer service, it is also saves money. The study, for example, estimated that a company that offered Pharmacy Advisor to its employees would save $3 for every $1 spent on this type of intervention.

The math gets even more compelling when you put the whole issue into greater context. For instance, the American Diabetes Association estimates the cost of the disease to the U.S. in 2007 at $174 billion. And the annual excess health care costs due to medication non-adherence in the U.S. have been estimated to be nearly $300 billion a year.