Why Pharmacists Are Needed on Every Health Care Team


Pharmacists are important and needed on every health care team.

I recently got a call from someone who had read one of my commentaries on transitions of care and developed a comprehensive system that utilized pharmacists’ skills to minimize medication problems.

He felt that the key to the system’s success was the critical role that pharmacists played to ensure patients received the intended drugs, only took those drugs and not others that may have been prescribed previously, and knew what to take and why.

As I reviewed his comprehensive program, I saw that he had built it around pharmacists, supplementing the patient’s community pharmacist of choice with another pharmacist who could interact with the patient at home. It was obvious to my caller that the key to solving the problem of care transitions is the pharmacist.

Of course, the caller was a pharmacist, so he was biased towards the pharmacist. However, he was also a businessman looking for a positive return on his investment, so he probably wouldn’t have continued relying on pharmacists unless it really worked.

I was then invited to a lunch to learn about another system that a different group was developing to work with accountable care organizations to improve drug therapy outcomes. It was a cloud-based system that would bring together patient information from many sources, and then analyze it to suggest interventions and alert the pharmacist to make the suggested changes.

One of the investors’ first words to me was how key the pharmacist was to the success of this system. This technology-focused individual even shared the positive experience his family had with a local independent pharmacist who cared about them and was always there to help when needed. It was a true encouragement to hear such a strong endorsement of the value of the pharmacist from a non-pharmacist.

Then, I read an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal written by attorney James B. Lieber, who shared 5 ways to make hospitals less deadly. He expressed these observations based on published studies showing physicians’ errors kill hundreds of thousands of Americans annually.

One of the 5 reforms Lieber offered to bring down the death toll was to bring in the pharmacist. He saw the pharmacist as the drug expert who needed to be included on the team to reduce the number of medication prescribing errors. Here again was a non-pharmacist who recognized the value of the pharmacist.

My overwhelming take-home point from all of this is that pharmacists are important and needed on every health care team. There are increasing opportunities for pharmacists who aren’t primarily dispensing, but it may take a few years before they’re available in large numbers.

I’m sure glad that I’m a pharmacist and that my kids chose this role, too. I’d even encourage my grandkids to make that choice.

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