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The Role of Pharmacists in a Changing Health Care Environment
Over the past 50 years, the role of pharmacists has evolved along with the health care needs of our population. In addition to dispensing medications and ensuring patient safety, today’s pharmacists are taking a larger role as medical counselors, educators and advocates.
There are several reasons for this:
Advances in technology have greatly expanded the prevention and treatment options for dozens of conditions, and enabled coordination and collaboration across health care providers and institutions.
As technology has become more sophisticated, patients have become more involved in their own care than ever before, setting clear expectations for transparent, patient-centered care and increased access to health care information.
Both patients and payors alike are focused on reducing costs and improving health outcomes, which has fostered the emergence of pharmacy management strategies.
Modern Pharmacists and Health Care Trends
Pharmacists are an integral part of the health care team, and are among the most trusted and accessible health care professionals. This accessibility allows them to perform more patient care activities, including counseling, medication management, and preventive care screenings. According to the National Pharmacist Workforce Survey, in 2014, 60 percent of pharmacists provided medication therapy management and 53 percent performed immunizations. Ten years earlier, only 13 percent of pharmacists provided medication management and just 15 percent administered vaccinations.1
Thanks to their accessibility and regular interaction with patients, pharmacists are also in a unique position to identify potential drug interactions early on, and to educate patients on the proper use of medication. These efforts have had significant impact on patient satisfaction and quality of care, and can help contain health care costs.2 Recent evidence also suggests that the addition of a pharmacist in a collaborative, team-based setting can improve performance against quality indicators and national health goals.3
Improving the Consumer Care Experience and Driving Better Health Outcomes
As Americans assume more financial responsibility for their health care, there is heightened consumer demand for access to low-cost, convenient care. Pharmacists can play a critical role in meeting that demand by making it easier for patients to access high-quality and cost-effective preventive screenings and immunization services.4
Pharmacist-led programs can help ease care transitions by reducing the occurrence of adverse drug events, addressing medication adherence and lowering hospital readmission rates through services such as bedside prescription transactions, counseling prior to discharge and phone consultations. In fact, a 2016 study from the CVS Health Research Institute found that medication reconciliation programs, in which pharmacists review patients' medication regimens and provide adherence counseling during the patient's transition from hospital to home, reduced risk of hospital readmission by 50 percent, and helped avoid unnecessary health care costs.
Medication management conducted by pharmacists has also been shown to improve medication adherence and clinical outcomes for patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.5 This increase in adherence can have far-reaching effects on both personal and financial health.
Finally, pharmacists play an important role in managing and improving population health, particularly in areas such as tobacco cessation and diabetes management, through counseling, monitoring, and support.6
The Only Constant is Change
In our ever-changing health care environment, pharmacists’ roles will continue to evolve, and CVS Health is committed to providing innovative solutions that improve health and reduce costs. For more information about our efforts, visit our Health Care Innovation & Delivery information center.