Consultant Pharmacists Provide Enhanced Long-Term Care Services

Many consultant pharmacists are taking on new roles and responsibilities in the shifting long-term care landscape, allowing them to perform a number of enhanced services.

Many consultant pharmacists are taking on new roles and responsibilities in the shifting long-term care (LTC) landscape, allowing them to perform a number of enhanced services.

Consultant pharmacists are integral to LTC, according to Jennifer L. Hardesty, PharmD, FASCP, the Chief Clinical Officer and Corporate Compliance Officer for Remedi SeniorCare. Among other responsibilities, consultant pharmacists are tasked with reviewing each patient’s medications and care process, as well as auditing the administration and storage of medication.

These services have become particularly important as LTC patients are increasingly treated in outpatient settings.

“Each day, there are 1,383,700 residents in nursing homes, and 713,300 residents in residential care communities,” Dr. Hardesty said at the 2015 American Society of Consultant Pharmacists Forum in Baltimore, Maryland. “There’s a huge opportunity for consultant pharmacists to make a difference in long-term care.”

Yet, consultant pharmacy services have been significantly affected by changes in the acuity of residents, lengths of stay, electronic health records, and complex medical therapies, Dr. Hardesty explained. These changes have prompted many consultant pharmacists to take on a more operational role in LTC, expanding their focus to include both individual patients and patient populations.

“With recent shifts in long-term care, we’re starting to see consultant pharmacists play a more active role in improving public health,” Dr. Hardesty said. “They are partnering with executive and regional leaders to develop and implement solutions to broader health problems.”

Dr. Hardesty categorized these enhanced service as either tactical or strategic. The consultant pharmacists who take a more tactical approach are more involved with direct care, treating patients on an individual basis. In addition to performing medication regimen reviews and patient assessments, tactical pharmacists put a great emphasis on educating patients and implementing cost-saving initiatives.

Working “on the ground” also enables tactical pharmacists to forge a stronger partnership with other LTC faculty members, Dr. Hardesty added.

“Tactical pharmacists’ on-site work allows them to build long-term relationships with administrators, nurses, and prescribers,” Dr. Hardesty stated. “Everyone works together as a team, which contributes to a successful LTC partnership.”

Compared with tactical pharmacists, consultant pharmacists who take a strategic approach tend to play a more administrative role within their LTC teams, working with other LTC leaders to make financial and operational decisions. In this capacity, strategic pharmacists have been responsible for implementing a number of initiatives focused on public health, such as drug reevaluation policies and improved electronic health record (EHR) utilization.

“The role of a strategic consultant pharmacist is not only to identify problems, but to develop solutions,” Dr. Hardesty explained.

She noted these responsibilities are not without their complications, however, necessitating cooperation between strategic and tactical pharmacists.

“Strategic pharmacists can face difficulties in implementing their initiatives, making it challenging for them to keep up with day-to-day operations,” Dr. Hardesty stated. “For them to be effective, they often need support from tactical pharmacists.”

No matter which approach consultant pharmacists take, the enhanced services they are offering point to a greater role for them to play in the future of LTC, Dr. Hardesty concluded.

“Consultant pharmacists are extremely valuable resources,” she said. “As LTC continues to change, their enhanced services will become even more essential.”