Pharmacists Primed to Lead Wellness Revolution
As the emphasis in health care shifts from treatment to prevention, pharmacists are perfectly positioned to help patients lead healthier lives and avoid costly chronic conditions.
Health care is evolving. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are now starting to pay for preventive medical services. It took a government mandate, but it is now becoming clearer that it is less expensive to prevent all-too-common obesity-related diseases, such as coronary artery disease, hypertension, and diabetes, than it is to treat them. A cardiac surgery stay can run upwards of $150,000; I can prevent it for $20,000-25,000. It doesn’t take Paul Krugman to see the savings there. Diet and exercise are the future of a significant amount of disease treatments. All I can say is that it’s about time.
For years, I have been preaching this platform, only to hear my voice echo in an empty hallway. Finally, I have an opportunity to do my work. The funny thing is that pharmacy is leading the way in wellness care. As you may know, a prominent national pharmacy chain has a rewards care program with the word wellness in the title. It’s more than just a word to us (I mean them); it has become a philosophy. Diabetes and weight management clinics are popping up everywhere. I am very excited about this.
Community pharmacy is no longer going to be just about high-volume dispensing. The preventive medicine stance—and let’s not forget immunizations, medication therapy management, and smoking cessation—is beginning to become a reality. The trick now is getting the third parties to pay for these services. With the results that have been documented, this shouldn’t be too hard to do in the near future. Pharmacists are in an excellent position to improve patients’ quality of life. I am practically jumping at the chance.
I started the How to Run a Mile program this spring. I have adults and children walking and running around a park in beautiful Northeast Pennsylvania. Who knows—maybe one day one of them will go on to run a marathon. I would like to see this program continue in a third-party reimbursable fee-for-service format. The negotiations would take some work, but I think it could happen.
So much money could be saved in the health care system if people would get in shape and stave off preventable diseases that result in expensive drug regimens, hospital stays, and surgeries. When diet and exercise are the prescription, a specially trained pharmacist should be able to provide the medicine. Personal training, preventive nutrition, and medication management will become the norm one day.
The next generation’s health outlook appears a little more promising. Maybe we can help them and their parents reduce their obesity rate so we won’t be the heaviest country in the world anymore. It would be incredible if, once this were achieved, we could look back and say that pharmacists were the ones to thank for it. As a profession, pharmacy is in a strategic position to do something revolutionary. The key now is to take advantage of it. Peace.
Jay Sochoka, RPh, is the author of Fatman in Recovery: Tales from the Brink of Obesity.