What can your pharmacist do for you?
What can your pharmacist do for you?
It’s never been easier to fill a prescription—you can get medications through any number of online pharmacies and telehealth sites. And discount cards and coupons are easy to find.
But what you typically don’t get with these services is access to a local pharmacist. While it may not seem like a big deal when you just want your prescription filled or refilled, you may be missing out on the guidance and support a pharmacist could provide.
This support was crucial for Jill Taylor, 55, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, founder and full-time owner of Happy Farmyard, an online resource for raising farm animals.
In 2015, Taylor was diagnosed pericardial effusion, a chronic heart condition that occurs when there is too much fluid around the heart. He feared that taking the drugs prescribed by the doctor to treat her would be overwhelming. Taylor said her doctor didn’t have time to answer all of her questions.
“That’s when my pharmacist stepped in,” she said. “The pharmacist explained that he wasn’t just there to fill prescriptions, he was also an expert on my overall health journey.”
Taylor said the pharmacist took time to go through each of her medications, encouraged her to ask questions, explained how her medications worked, and walked her through how to take them correctly. She also prepped her for specific side effects and watched for potentially dangerous interactions between her and his medications.
The pharmacist also helped set Taylor’s expectations for the healing process, ensured she had a support system in place to help her manage her medications, and provided her with resources to help her make informed decisions about her care . She also checked on her repeatedly to make sure she was okay.
“Overall, having a pharmacist on my team has given me the confidence to stay on top of my treatment plans and feel like I’m really taking control of my health journey,” she said. “It’s something no prescription can buy.”
Pharmacists as Healthcare Professionals (HCP)
Taylor isn’t alone in turning to a pharmacist for clinical support. A Study 2022 found that patients visit their community pharmacy almost twice as often as they see their doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. In the study, the patients who used the most pharmaceutical services were more likely to be female – more than half of the most frequent pharmacy users were female – with the average age around 50.
In many states, pharmacists are beginning to be recognized as health care professionals. For example, Massachusetts has passed a law in 2021 which recognizes pharmacists as HCPs who can be integrated into care teams and potentially reimbursed by insurance for their services. Along the same lines, Nevada has passed a law which removes some limitations for pharmacists and makes it easier for pharmacists to help patients and practice in collaboration with healthcare professionals.
These changes reflect a growing recognition that pharmacists can be an important part of a patient’s care team. While pharmacists aren’t there to diagnose or dispense medical advice, they can provide guidance about which over-the-counter medicines to take and how to take them correctly and safely, and they can educate people about the risks of medicines, such as potentially dangerous interactions.
They can also help ensure that patients know how to take their medications correctly. In some states, pharmacists can provide patients with more complex treatments, such as hormonal contraceptives and HIV medications. Additionally, pharmacists can help patients determine when they really need to see an HCP for a more serious condition.
The evolution of pharmacists
La Vonia Cannon, MBA, BS Pharm, pharmacist, said she has seen the pharmacy profession change over the past two decades.
“We believe that pharmacy, often the first stop and last mile in healthcare delivery, can be even more instrumental in helping solve the challenges facing our healthcare system and patients today,” he said.
According to Cannon, pharmacies now provide tests and vaccinations and help people manage chronic illnesses, freeing up healthcare professionals to consult with patients who need the most support.
Cannon said pharmacies are now partnering with primary care providers to help coordinate patient care. They also offer “test and treat” services where the pharmacist can run certain tests and provide appropriate medications, such as providing an antiviral after a positive Covid-19 test.
“I’m proud to see pharmacists play a bigger role in healthcare than ever before,” she said. “In recent years, the value of pharmacists as trusted healthcare resources integrated into the communities they serve has become more evident.”
Pharmacists are more than medicine dispensers
Las Vegas-based Danielle Plummer, Pharm.D, uses her training to do more than just dispense medicine. She works as a hospital pharmacist ea consultant pharmacisteducating healthcare professionals and supporting patients with Hyperemesis gravidaruma condition that causes extreme nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
“Pharmacists are moving away from dispensing roles for a variety of reasons, including technology and the emphasis on vaccines and state education about other diseases,” Plummer said.
He said many pharmacists are now trained, certified and seen as part of clinical care teams in hospitals, clinics and long-term care settings. The role of pharmacists is expanding, with pharmacist jobs at insurance companies, drug and diagnostics manufacturers, in the public health sector, and in startups, among others.
“I believe that in the near future, pharmacists will be working in primary care offices, handling drug administration for safety and insurance issues, instead of working in the retail pharmacy,” Plummer said.
For Taylor, she credits her pharmacist with being a great help in finding the right medications and dosages to keep her pericardial effusion under control.
“I’ve been able to keep up with my condition and my pharmacist is definitely a key part of my team,” she said. “I am grateful to have such a knowledgeable and helpful professional to help me stay healthy and manage my condition.”