Engaging Pharmacists in the Health Care Revolution


The truism that pharmacy practice as we know it has to change is widely accepted across the profession and health care spectrum, but making it happen has been difficult.

Recently, athenahealth made available a reprint of a 2014 Harvard Business Review article called “Engaging Doctors in the Health Care Revolution.”

Allow me to share a few quotes from the article and then tell you why I believe the method described could be used by pharmacy leaders, especially in the retail chain pharmacy arena.

Quote: “Despite wondrous advances in medicine and technology, health care regularly fails at the fundamental job of any business: to reliably deliver what its customers need.”

Couldn’t the same thing be said about most pharmacy environments, where pharmacists deliver what patients seem to want, but not what they really need?

Quote: “In the face of ever-increasing complexity, the hard work and best intentions of individual physicians can no longer guarantee efficient, high-quality care.”

Couldn’t the same statement be applied to many community pharmacy situations, where hardworking pharmacists keep trying to make a difference, but the outcomes stay the same?

Quote: “Fixing health care will require a radical transformation, moving from a system organized around individual physicians to a team-based approach focused on patients. Doctors, of course, must be central players in the transformation: any ambitious strategy that they do not embrace is doomed.”

Although I agree that the physician must be a central player, I also believe that unless the pharmacist is part of the team, good care is difficult to deliver, and in most current community pharmacy situations today, the pharmacists fulfills their role in isolation from a team. We often blame reimbursement or other factors for this, but I think the real problem is that most pharmacists haven’t bought into the idea that they can’t stay isolated from the health care team, and many aren’t working to make it happen where they work.

Quote: “Leaders at all levels must draw on reserves of optimism, courage, and resilience. They must develop an understanding of behavioral economics and social capital and be ready to part company with clinicians who refuse to work with their colleagues to improve outcome and efficiency.”

The article then offers motivational tools adapted for health care professionals that’s based on the writings of Max Weber on how to drive social actions, which are “shared purpose, self-interest, respect, and tradition. Leaders can use these levers to earn doctors’ buy-in and bring about the change the system so urgently needs.”

Finally, the article explains how those tools were applied in several different health systems.

The truism that pharmacy practice as we know it has to change is widely accepted across the profession and health care spectrum, but making it happen has been difficult. As I read this article, I kept thinking that if I was trying to change a pharmacy’s vision and culture and get buy-in from pharmacists across the system, I’d want to apply the right tools for making change happen. Maybe this is already happening and I’m just not seeing it, but I’ve read several essays and spoken with many pharmacists who are resistant to changing the way they’ve been doing things.

Perhaps the tools described in the article would help get pharmacists’ buy-in to make the necessary changes happen and fulfill my vision of all pharmacists being part of the health care team.

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