Pharmacists need to consider how they can best position themselves to help address the growing primary care physician shortage.
An interesting article from the Wall Street Journal came to my attention recently. The article, titled “The Team Can See You Now,” featured photos of the team of medical professionals—including a pharmacist—at Union Square Family Health Center in Somerville, Massachusetts. The article emphasized that team-based care is taking hold in many parts of the country due to the primary care physician shortage. As the article suggests, the idea is that team members can practice at the highest level allowed by their license.
My first reaction was that it was nice to see a pharmacist included on a medical team featured in a national publication like the Wall Street Journal. I also noticed that a caption explained that the team’s physician assistant “helps patients with chronic diseases.” My next reaction was that this could just as easily be the description for the pharmacist’s role, since most chronic disease management is done by medication. It got me thinking.
I then saw another article, in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, titled “Is It time to Start Teaching Basic Diagnostics?” The authors wrote that “[i]t may be time for the academy to take a more aggressive stand with regards to diagnostic instruction within [pharmacy] professional degree programs.” They acknowledged that such an idea might be resisted by other health care providers as well as within the pharmacy profession. The authors proposed that instruction be aimed at inculcating basic assessment, triage, and diagnostic skills—not to make pharmacists “pseudo-physicians” but to “empower pharmacists with the ability to more impactfully care for patients.”
Here is the main issue for me: How do we best position the pharmacist to help address the growing primary care manpower shortage? I think we need to look at providing more diagnostic training to better prepare pharmacists to manage chronic diseases. What do you think?