Expert: Supporting Health Equity and Access to Care Through Community Pharmacies

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Niki Shah Vice President of Impact Innovation and Activation at McKesson, discusses efforts to advance health equity and access through community pharmacy initiatives.

In an interview with Pharmacy Times, Niki Shah Vice President of Impact Innovation and Activation at McKesson discussed McKesson's various initiatives to support health equity through community pharmacies, shared at the 2024 McKesson ideaShare conference. This includes training pharmacy technicians as community health workers and launching a website called Find Help to connect patients with resources. Shah noted that McKesson also launched a pilot project to open a new independent pharmacy in Avondale, Ohio to improve access to care in an underserved area. She discussed how this pharmacy serves as an example of how future sites can provide healthcare services and act as a hub for their communities.

Pharmacy Times

How is McKesson supporting community pharmacies in advancing health equity?

Niki Shah

McKesson's purpose is to advance health outcomes for all. And before all part of our purpose is really addressing that part of inequities. Our commitment to do that is enterprise wide and beyond. We look at access to care and improving access to care and advancing health equity through a variety of ways in various partnerships. Specifically, with community pharmacy, we've launched several health equity initiatives that are tailored for Health Mart in particular. One of the examples is around community health workers and training pharmacy technicians across the US in independent pharmacies that are technicians but also adding the community health worker element to their background so that they're able to better address patient needs at the point of care and go deeper, when it relates to things like social determinants of health and other types of needs. It may not be as obvious when a patient is picking up their prescription. The other thing that we've launched recently also is Find Help, specifically https://healthmart.findhelp.com/ is a great resource for both our pharmacists and for our patients that leverage Health Mart for free to find resources in their zip codes and in their communities around things like food, transportation, housing, all the things that could be barriers to their care. Pharmacists now can not only empower their own teams to meet these needs of their patients as they're coming into their pharmacies, but it's also supporting the patients as well. They're able to search for that again at no cost.

Key Takeaways

  1. McKesson is supporting health equity through initiatives like training pharmacy technicians as community health workers and providing a resource website for patients and pharmacists.
  2. The company launched a pilot project to open a new independent pharmacy in Avondale, Ohio to improve access to care in an underserved community.
  3. Pharmacies can act as hubs within their communities by providing healthcare services, prevention, education, and addressing social determinants of health.

Pharmacy Times

What is McKesson doing to help improve access to care?

Niki Shah

McKesson overall, because of our footprint and our geographic spread, we have a unique capability to use impact driven initiatives to really support and advance health outcomes for all. One example of this, was the launch of a pilot initiative aimed at improving essential access to care in underserved communities. This project in particular, the way that McKesson was participating in it was we supported the opening of a new independent pharmacy to support an urban area where there was no access to a storefront in that area for pharmacy services, and not only pharmacy services, but just having access to general health care overall in that community. So, after a lot of research, looking at the data, looking at where the needs were, and where we could really create an impact, we landed on Avondale, Ohio, which is a community of Cincinnati. The demographics, the health risks, all the things that made up the community and the lack of access really made that the ideal spot for our first activation site. with the support of McKesson, Dr. Emmanuel Ayanjoke was the first pharmacist for our new activation, and he is now the owner and operator of Altev community pharmacy in Avondale.

Pharmacy Times

How can this project and a pharmacy like Altev Community Pharmacy further support health equity within their communities?

Niki Shah

I think pharmacists have a really unique part of the patient journey and the way that they respond and react to patients’ health equity is ingrained in the profession. It's what they do. Initiatives like Altev community pharmacy bring those to life. It really creates a new opportunity for McKesson and our partners to really invest and look at different ways to continue to expand access in those areas where they may not have, not only access to pharmacy services, but things like prevention and early detection and vaccines and education. There's a lot of things that go into a person's overall health and health outcomes. So, the pharmacy is really the trusted agent in that community. We see Altev as an example of future sites where they can be the nucleus in a community where they're providing all those health care related services.

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