Pharmacy Technicians With Community Health Worker Training Can Improve the Value of The Pharmacy in Health Care

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Community health workers can address issues of health equity to enhance the services of the pharmacy and support a value-based care model.

Community health workers (CHW) can add value to the pharmacy by addressing social determinants of health (SDOH) within their community, according to John (Jake) A. Galdo, PharmD, MBA, BCPS, BCGP, co-founder and chief executive officer,Seguridad, Inc, and CPESN Health Equity; and Christian Tadrus, RPh, PharmD, FASCP, NSC,Sam’s Health Mart Pharmacies; who spoke during a session titled Communicate, Assimilate, and Facilitate: Pharmacy Technician and Community Health Worker Roles Collide, at McKesson ideaShare 2023.

Credit: Tyler Olson - stock.adobe.com

Credit: Tyler Olson - stock.adobe.com

“The bigger picture is that our wellbeing, our health, only 20% of that is derived from the medications we take and the access to care that we have,” Galdo said in the session. “Eighty percent of our health and wellbeing is related to our physical environment, our social factors, and our behavioral factors.”

These SDOH, which Galdo describes as being “the places we live, the air we breathe, and the people we meet,” directly impact health-related outcomes of mortality, morbidity, life expectancy, and health status—more than $150 billion that is spent on missed or delayed medical care due to transportation. More so, 1 in 5 people in the active military are food insecure and life expectancy between 2 zip codes that are 5-miles apart in Philadelphia have a 20-year difference in mortality.

“Being lonely is [also] as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. Let that sink in,” Galdo adds.

CHWs are frontline public health workers with an innate understanding of their community. They serve as a point-of-connection between the community and health care services, and they are equipped to improve people with disadvantaged SDOH by doing health assessments. The CHW can also provide health education, and help patients enroll in health insurance programs, Galdo discussed in the session.

In research of Medicaid claims data, investigators found that the CHW saved the average member $240 per month. This was even after accounting for direct costs, Galdo said.

“This is savings after cost utilization went up,” Galdo said.

The pharmacy technician’s role differs from the CHW because they can prepare mediations, perform calculations for medication preparation, collect medical history, and work with third-party billing. However, cross-training with CHW training could be immensely beneficial to the pharmacy technician, who can build a line of revenue for health equity, continue to give out prescriptions, and get a “backdoor into other providers for new services,” Galdo said.

CHW training is a specific type that is typical authorized by the Department of Mental Health, although certification looks differently by state. A CHW can also be sourced externally and receive training about the pharmacy once hired.

CHW in pharmacy can address issues of SDOH and health inequities with countless health equity services:

  • delivery services
  • diabetes self-management education
  • screening for SDOH
  • bingo

Yes, the game bingo. It can decrease a patient’s loneliness and social isolation, Galdo said. Generally, CHW display themes of caring.

“Going a little farther than the job description,” explained Tadrus.

They can be advocates to the services the pharmacy provides, work to improve payment models to become dependent on SDOH problem resolution or patient condition—rather than changing it to a value-based model—and they are an extension of the care team, whether that CHW ends up being the pharmacy technician, the clerk, the pharmacist, or another external service provider, Galdo said.

“A CHW can come from anybody,” Galdo concluded. “Anyone can be a CHW, but your good CHW is not everyone.”

Reference

Galdo J, Tadrus C.Communicate, Assimilate, and Facilitate: Pharmacy Technician and Community Health Worker (CHW) Roles Collide. McKesson ideaShare 2023. Las Vegas, Nevada.

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