Three Ways Community Pharmacies Can Partner With Academia to Implement Patient Care Initiatives

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Many faculty members are adept at training and teaching pharmacists and pharmacy technicians how to perform physical exams and tests.

It is a typical weekday in the community pharmacy: the phones are ringing, the queue is building, patients are being cared for, prior authorizations are still pending, and the day is filled with making sure the usual work gets done. It can feel like pushing out new patient care initiatives is a daunting endeavor that has to be backburnered while more pressing tasks are addressed.

With rising direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) fees and declining reimbursements, the urgency for pivoting to offer broader—and reimbursable—patient care services is increasing. A potential partner for implementing new patient care initiatives that is often overlooked is academia. Consider using your college or school of pharmacy to help with patient care initiatives.

Real-world Demonstration Projects

Academic institutions often have students and residents who want or need projects focused on practice. These learners and faculty can be valuable partners to trial new ideas and initiatives, figure out what works, and then deliver a practice-ready plan. In Idaho, pharmacists can independently prescribe so long as the condition meets a specific set of criteria: (1) emergency situation, (2) mild or self-limited diagnosis, (3) point of care test available to diagnose, or (4) no new diagnosis needed.

An Idaho State University faculty member, in partnership with both residents and students, led the creation of 19 evidence-based, referenced protocols for implementation in the community pharmacy space. These ready-made materials could then be adapted and implemented by front-line pharmacy teams.

Similarly, when the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated an expansion of testing for the virus, faculty, APPE students, and pharmacies partnered informally to design drive-up models for both point-of-care testing and swab-and-send COVID-19 testing. In other states, pharmacy faculty and residents are often practicing under collaborative practice agreements, which could, in turn, serve as templates for practice-based pharmacists.

Similarly, workflows established for student-run screening clinics could be used to launch screening services in community pharmacy practices. There are countless opportunities, either through existing initiatives with already created materials or through partnerships on pilot projects to translate services to the community pharmacy setting. If you know of a project that you’d like to do, there could be a willing partner at a school or college of pharmacy interested in figuring out how to make it work.

Navigating New Opportunities

College of pharmacy-affiliated personnel have the capacity to navigate new opportunities that may be beneficial to community pharmacies. Community-based residents are embedded in a space that allows them to work on community-focused research and clinical projects each year.

From creating business plans (e.g., tobacco cessation service), to implementing new clinical services (e.g., independent contraceptive prescribing), a community-based resident can help jumpstart new services. From a research standpoint, a resident can help assess sustainability and workflow of a proposed or existing service.

Faculty members can deliver training to pharmacies to provide enhanced clinical services. Point-of-care testing is becoming increasingly prevalent as community pharmacies transition to offering more non-dispensing services.

Many faculty members are adept at training and teaching pharmacists and pharmacy technicians how to perform physical exams and tests, such as throat swabs for strep tests or nasopharyngeal swabs for flu tests. Additionally, in certain states, pharmacists are recognized as providers by Medicaid and can get credentialed through contracts with private insurers.

Along with the credentialing process is figuring out how to actually bill for a service and get reimbursed. Faculty members and residents can call the support lines of different insurers, ask the right questions, and obtain the necessary resources to get medical billing up and running. What new opportunity exists in your state that could use some support or added resources?

Access to Up-to-Date Information to Support Emerging Services

In addition to navigating new opportunities, partnering with your local college of pharmacy gives you access to up-to-date information to support emerging services. Faculty can provide clinical expertise on various topics.

If your pharmacy is interested in implementing a new service, faculty members can offer another perspective to ensure that protocols are both clinically sound and patient-friendly. Colleges also have access to training equipment, materials, and student volunteers to help support services (e.g., vaccine clinics, health screenings).

Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES) is an example of a service that community pharmacies have begun to implement. Faculty members who are well-versed in grants can assist in grant-writing to fund new clinical initiatives, such as starting a DSMES program.

Additionally, a resident could help develop materials, teach DSMES classes, and navigate the billing and reimbursement aspect. By partnering with the college, you’ll have access to academic resources (i.e., PubMed, scholarly journals) to stay updated on new medical advancements and studies. Personnel involved with the college of pharmacy (faculty, residents, students) can efficiently summarize guidelines, key studies, and new research for practice-based pharmacists.

How to Approach

Why would schools and colleges participate in these partnerships? Well, they benefit.

Community outreach and engagement is valuable to faculty as individuals and to the college as a whole, because it helps to ensure the curriculum is reflective of real-world practice, identifies areas for future research, including potential funding opportunities, and creates unique training experiences for learners.

Having trouble getting started? A low-hanging fruit for connecting with the resources available in colleges of pharmacy is to partner with your local college’s ACT Champion, who is a designated person dedicated to partnering with you.

To find the list of ACT Champions and to learn more about the Academia-CPESN Transformation Pharmacy Collaborative, check out the ACT website. Whether you’re interested in piloting a service at your pharmacy, navigating a new opportunity, or staying on top of emerging trends in community pharmacy practice, consider reaching out to your neighbors in academia today.