How Pharmacists Can Use Advanced Medication Decision Support to Improve Health, Curtail Costs

As pharmacists’ role in the health of communities continues to grow, it becomes even more critical for pharmacists to be armed with advanced technology when providing drug analysis.

The role that pharmacies play in their communities has been steadily growing in recent years—a trend that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated. Importantly, this growth is helping to encourage some states to expand the role of pharmacists for the application of their clinical expertise, fueling an active dialogue within the health care community.1

Several states have passed legislation that significantly expands pharmacists’ scope of practice from the services they provide to reimbursement. The key reality is that pharmacists are experts in drug therapy, and this expertise equips them to provide unique support and value to patients. Pharmacists are well-suited for greater involvement in patient care.

Technology is also playing an important role today as medication decision support tools must advance to transcend traditional one-to-one drug analysis and incorporate simultaneous, multi-drug analysis. Multi-drug analysis is rooted in pharmacy science, including pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, which can complement pharmacists’ expertise and help them identify potential multi-drug interactions, with a better understanding of actionable insights to avoid these interactions.

Research published in the American Journal of Managed Care sheds light on the value of using advanced medication decision support tools.2 In this article, pharmacists provided retrospective medication safety reviews for a group of participants using these tools. The group that took part in the medication safety reviews demonstrated better outcomes than the group that didn’t receive medication safety reviews, including reduced adverse drug events, emergency department visits, hospital admissions, and medical costs. As an example, the group that did not take part in the reviews experienced a more significant (16.0% vs 8.5%) year-over-year increase in mean total medical costs per member (Medicare Part A and Part B costs).

Medical costs are also highlighted in our peer-reviewed paper published in Healthcare, which focuses on structured medication risk mitigation services and Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE).3 The prospective medication safety reviews and pharmacogenomic assessments provided by pharmacists that were discussed in the research are available to PACE organizations that use providers to offer modern structured medication risk mitigation services.

The study measured medical costs (facility and physician costs) and found that those participants who received both structured prospective medication review and comprehensive PACE pharmacy services spent $5000 less in avoidable medical costs than the control group of patients.

As pharmacists’ role and recognition continues to grow, it becomes even more critical for pharmacists to be armed with advanced technology that provides simultaneous multi-drug analyses. This provides better, more effective care for patients and maximizes the opportunities that expanded scope of practice and payment bring. Using these tools to provide medication safety reviews provides pharmacists with the vital drug information they need to apply their knowledge and expertise, improve the health of more patients, and curtail medical costs, further advancing the pharmacy profession.

About the Author

Mindy Smith, BSPharm, RPh, MHA, CMWA, is senior vice president, Government & Professional Affairs at Tabula Rasa HealthCare.

REFERENCES

  1. Andrews M. Despite doctors’ concerns, pharmacists get more leeway to offer treatment with testing. Kaiser Health News. Published March 31, 2022. Accessed April 26, 2022. https://khn.org/news/article/pharmacists-test-and-treat-doctors-opposition
  2. Stein A, Finnel S, Bankes D, et al. Health outcomes from an innovative Enhanced Medication Therapy Management model. Am J Manag Care. 2021;27(suppl 16):S300-S308. doi:10.37765/ajmc.2021.88755
  3. Jin H, Yang S, Bankes D, Finnel S, Turgeon J, Stein A. Evaluating the impact of medication risk mitigation services in medically complex older adults. Healthcare. 2022;10(3):551. doi:10.3390/healthcare10030551