Ambulatory Care Pharmacists Play Key Role in Improving Patient Outcomes

Anna Pham, PharmD, PGY2 ambulatory care resident at Intermountain Healthcare, discusses the role of ambulatory care pharmacists in primary care clinics.

In an interview with Pharmacy Times® at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Summer Meetings and Exhibition, Anna Pham, PharmD, PGY2 ambulatory care resident at Intermountain Healthcare, discusses the role of ambulatory care pharmacists in primary care clinics.

Q: What is the role of the ambulatory pharmacist in primary care clinics and how do they help to improve patient outcomes?

Anna Pham: The way I see the role of amatory care pharmacists within primary care is that we work as a mid-level provider to optimize medication use for patients and just help our provider colleagues to optimize prescribing habits for medications and help with other miscellaneous things, anything related to medication access, and making sure our patient is on an efficacious and safe medications.

Q: What is the importance of using ambulatory pharmacists within a patient's primary care?

Anna Pham: We see a lot of patients in the primary care clinic for chronic disease management. If we're getting referral from the provider, these patients are most likely uncontrolled or don't understand the medications. So as pharmacists, we do have more free time to really dig in with these patients and get to know them to really optimize their medication use, compared to our provider colleagues who may only see their patient maybe for 20 or 30 minutes every 3 months. Just having the opportunity to have more frequent follow up is an advantage that the pharmacist has to help manage these disease states.

Q: What are some of the different ways in which ambulatory care pharmacists impact patient care and improve adherence?

Anna Pham: Like in my primary care setting, we are able to help co-prescribe medications for like diabetes, hypertension, respiratory, anticoagulant. Those are the bread and butter of ambulatory care services, but there's been a push within ambulatory care services to focus on population health and transition of care. So those are ways that we can help target our high-risk patients who are leaving the hospital who are having a lot of medication changes, who may be having access to medication issues with these new medications, so we can improve outcomes there just reduce frequent rehospitalization and emergency department visits.

Q: What are some methods pharmacists can use to effectively communicate with primary care physicians?

Anna Pham: I think just taking the team-based approach to helping our provider colleagues in the primary care clinic, so having the approach that the pharmacist has to be in clinic, and we do provide value through helping manage chronic diseases management, but also as we know, medications are just getting more complex and more expensive. So as the medication expert, we can provide value there to help our colleagues in primary care to prescribe medications that are affordable for the patient, but it makes sense based on all the other patient specific factors that the patient wants us to address also.

Q: With such a broad breadth of knowledge necessary in primary care, can you speak about how/why pharmacists are perfectly positioned for this environment?

Anna Pham: I would say in pharmacy school, we learn about all different types of drugs and all different disease states. We have a well, broad wealth of knowledge of primary care disease in particular. I know during pharmacy school, I learned a lot about diabetes and hypertension, and we are the drug experts, and we know these drugs in and out. So just having that educational opportunity plus going through possibly 2 years of residency training ambulatory care pharmacy as a position to be a mid-level provider to optimize this medication use in the ambulatory care setting.