Pharmacy immunization, disease management, and counseling programs improve patient health, and are used more often than traditional sources, a report suggests.
More patients seek immunizations and other health information from their pharmacists than from traditional medical resources, according to studies presented by Walgreens National Medical Director Robert London, MD, at the IMS Managed Markets Services/Data Niche conference on March 1, 2012.
For flu or pneumonia vaccinations, diabetes management and tests, and customized education, face-to-face consults with pharmacists outpaced traditional care methods delivered by doctors, according to Dr. London’s report. The report used Walgreens-specific data compiled from several studies, but many of the services included are not exclusive to the company.
Pharmacists had a particularly significant impact when it came to immunizations, especially in areas of the country where traditional medical services are not readily available. A retrospective study showed that 33% of influenza immunizations Walgreens administered in the 2009-2010 influenza season nationwide were in medically underserved areas (MUAs). In states where the largest portions of the population live in MUAs, pharmacists provided an even higher percentage of influenza vaccinations, the data showed.
Educating at-risk patients, such as the elderly or immune-compromised, about the importance of vaccinations is another area where pharmacists outpace traditional care, according to Dr. London’s presentation. Although only 2.9% of at-risk patients typically receive a pneumococcal vaccine, based on a commercial and Medicare benchmark database, Dr. London reported that about 4.88% of this population received vaccines at Walgreens.
In addition, almost a third of vaccinations performed by Walgreens pharmacists occurred during weekend, holiday, or after-work hours, rather than peak daytime hours. Of these off-peak immunizations, 59% occurred on weekends, 31% occurred on evenings, and 10% occurred on federal holidays, Dr. London noted. Off-peak vaccinations were particularly popular with patients between the ages of 18 and 65, with 65% of patients in that age group receiving vaccinations outside of work hours.
Counseling services for chronic conditions is yet another area where pharmacy programs benefit patients. The Walgreens study tracked diabetes intervention programs, and found that face-to-face counseling by pharmacists led to a statistically significant reduction in A1C levels, blood pressure, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
“The power of pharmacist and nurse practitioner-led, face-to-face programs is clearly demonstrated,” Dr. London said in a press release. “Whether delivered through a community pharmacy, retail clinic, or worksite health center, these interactions allow for an individualized approach to disease management while meaningfully improving health outcomes.”