Community-clinical linkages between pharmacists and physicians can help improve patient care and ensure that individuals have access to the resources to best manage their conditions in both community and primary care settings.
The CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, in collaboration with the American Pharmacists Association and the American Medical Association, released a guide on establishing these linkages between community pharmacists and physicians.1 The guide aims to ensure that pharmacists’ education and training are fully utilized through their “participation in and contribution to team-based care, disease management, and the provision of wellness services."
The report outlines a LINKAGE framework that includes strategies that community pharmacists and physicians can use to build linkages.
- Learn about the community and clinical sectors.
- Identify and engage key stakeholders from the community and clinical sectors.
- Negotiate and agree upon goals and objectives of the linkage.
- Know which operational structure to implement.
- Aim to coordinate and manage the linkage.
- Grow the linkage with sustainability in mind.
- Evaluate the linkage.
Pharmacist-physician collaboration can improve medical care and increase access and efficiency. Linkages can facilitate health assessments in the pharmacy and subsequent referral to a physician, physician referral of patients to the pharmacist for assistance with medications or chronic condition management, and pharmacist triage of patients into primary care after identifying medication-related problems or other health conditions.
The guide also includes collaborative action steps for both pharmacists and physicians:
- Host a collaborative meeting between the pharmacist and physician to share information and learn about each other’s priorities.
- Contact your state or local health department or nonprofit health-systems organizations that conduct needs assessments to understand the incidence and prevalence of disease within the community and identify unmet needs.
- Consult with state and local health departments to learn about important ongoing national and state health priorities and strategies to improve care, patient outcomes, health care use, and health information technology. Consider how a community-clinical linkage between community pharmacists and physicians can support these efforts.
- Take the time to understand how physicians and pharmacists operate in their respective practice environments.
Building collaborative linkages requires overcoming barriers between community pharmacists and physicians. According to the report, provider engagement and support is critical to the patient’s care. Pharmacy support can be viewed as an extension of the primary care services and can increase the physician’s capacity to focus on non-medication related issues.
Regular meetings between physicians and pharmacists focused on practice-related issues, shared expectations, quality indicators, and patient needs can boost effective collaboration. Additionally, the report encourages pharmacists to discuss existing and emerging payment models, such as value-based approaches that support community-clinical linkages.
The full report provides detailed descriptions of each of the framework’s components and offers comprehensive strategy recommendations.
- CDC. Creating community-clinical linkages between community pharmacists and physicians. Atlanta, GA. CDC, US Department of Health and Human Services. 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/pubs/docs/ccl-pharmacy-guide.pdf. Accessed May 2, 2017.