Research Indicates Pharmacists’ Role to Expand Over Next Decade Amid Pandemic, Provider Shortages

Most pharmacists see a transition from transactional care to more direct patient care responsibilities.

Although there is a growing shortage in health care providers, pharmacists are still well-trusted by patients and projected to play an increasingly integral role in care management, according to new research from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and Express Scripts Pharmacy.

The Prescription of Trust report surveyed more than 3000 patients, 1000 pharmacists, and 500 providers (including physicians and nurse practitioners) to further understand the expanding role of pharmacists in transforming patient care. It is the largest study of its kind ever conducted and the first to include the voice of patients, according to the researchers.

“The results of the report are clear. Most people trust pharmacists to play a greater role in providing their care. As the shortage of doctors and nurses persists, and as complex new therapies and digital health care technology solutions are developed, the role of the pharmacist will continue to evolve,” said John McHugh, MBA, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, in a press release.

Some of the key findings of the survey, which was conducted from November to December 2021, include:

  • Pharmacists’ Expanding Responsibilities

Most pharmacists see a transition from transactional care to more direct patient care responsibilities. Pharmacists in ambulatory clinics, health systems, and home delivery pharmacies are at the forefront of this trend.

  • Providers, Patients Trust Pharmacists

Approximately 80% of patients surveyed indicated that they see pharmacists as an integral part of their health care team. Additionally, providers reported a high level of trust, often exceeding 90% in pharmacists’ current professional activities, such as dispensing medications and counseling patients on their medications.

  • Advanced Care Requiring Advanced Training

Although pharmacists recognize that patients need more consistent clinical counseling and disease education, training will be a major focus in key areas to fill gaps in patient care. Approximately 53.3% of pharmacists agreed their current training and education is sufficient to manage patients, even though pharmacists also identified opportunities for additional training in chronic disease education, diagnosing, and prescribing.

  • Roles Evolve Along with Patient Engagement

The study found that nearly half of patients would find it very helpful to have routine testing and medical visits done from home. Further, more than half of home delivery pharmacists report engaging more with patients via telepharmacy, whereas approximately 15% of retail pharmacists report using telepharmacy.

“As we look at the emerging forces shaping the future of health care, it is clear that accelerated pharmacological innovation and expanded pharmacy services are two of the most fundamental driving forces,” said Eric Palmer, CEO of Evernorth, in the press release. “We continue to advance our pharmacy offerings and provide specialized training for our on-staff pharmacists to support patients with state-of-art care, now and into the future.”

REFERENCE

Pharmacists’ role to expand over next decade amid the pandemic and provider shortages. EurekAlert! January 12, 2022. Accessed January 12, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/939876