Community Pharmacists Skillful in Improving Hypertension

A pilot program involving pharmacist interventions and pharmacy-based blood pressure kiosks has demonstrated the power of community pharmacists in improving hypertension.

A pilot program involving pharmacist interventions and pharmacy-based blood pressure kiosks has demonstrated the power of community pharmacists in improving hypertension.

The program involved a nonprofit organization called HealthPartners, Sterling Pharmacy, and PharmaSmart, which manufactures kiosks that provide blood pressure measurements inside of a pharmacy.

Around 270 patients with hypertension participated in the 6-month program. They all filled prescriptions for blood pressure medications at Sterling Pharmacy, which is owned by Astrup Drug Inc and is one of several locations in Minnesota.

Patients used a “Smart Card” that let them track their blood pressure through the PharmaSmart kiosks.

(Sterling Pharmacy’s website also allows patients to access their blood pressure results by inputting their Smart Card information. In addition to tracking their blood pressure, patients can also print their reports and e-mail links to their health care providers.)

Through the kiosk, patients’ blood pressure data was sent to the pharmacy staff, which allowed pharmacists to intervene if patients were not seeing improvements.

Although all patient participants had a prescription for medication to lower their blood pressure, almost half of them had uncontrolled blood pressure.

Because of the pharmacist interventions—whether by recommending a change in dose or medication to the patients’ prescriber—blood pressure was improved in about one-third of the patients with uncontrolled blood pressure.

The mean reduction among the patients with uncontrolled blood pressure was -11 mmHg systolic and -8 mmHg diastolic, according to a HealthPartners press release.

One of the reasons why the pilot program was launched was because a HealthPartners analysis found that 85% of patients filled their prescription in a timely manner, but around one-third of the patients still had uncontrolled blood pressure.

“It is well understood that the pharmacist can play a key role in supporting medication adherence,” said Richard Bruzek, vice president of HealthPartners pharmacy services, in a press release. “This pilot shows that community pharmacists can add even more value by confirming that the prescribed medication is doing what it is supposed to do.”

HealthPartners stated in a press release that it was considering expanding the program in 2016.

“One of the key findings of the pilot program is the importance of personal interaction between the patient and the pharmacist,” said Tim Gallagher, president of Astrup Drug, in a press release. “Pharmacists have the opportunity to extend the care team and optimize therapy to positively impact patient outcomes.”

This is not the first program that has demonstrated the skills of pharmacists in getting patients’ blood pressure under control.

A previous University of Iowa study found that pharmacists who worked in care teams with physicians helped patients lower their blood pressure more compared with patient groups that did not see a clinical pharmacist.

In the study, patients in the physician-pharmacist collaborative management also saw a greater number of medication adjustments.

About one-third of Americans (70 million) have high blood pressure, and only 52% have it under control, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

High blood pressure can increase a patient’s risk for heart disease and stroke.

The CDC describes high blood pressure as a “silent killer” because of its frequent lack of warning signs or symptoms.