The role of pharmacists is often misunderstood. Many people assume that pharmacists’ only job is to fill prescriptions without directly interacting with patients.
However, a recent study conducted by the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in collaboration with Express Scripts
Pharmacy found that patients started engaging with pharmacists on much more personalized levels during the pandemic. Prescribers (i.e., physicians, nurse practitioners, physicians assistants) are also putting more trust into pharmacists and counting on them to fill in gaps in healthcare to optimize patient outcomes.
The survey found that 77 percent of patients recognize their pharmacist as a critical part of their care team. Soon, the role of a pharmacist will become central to all patients’ healthcare and wellbeing.
This is due primarily to an anticipated physician shortage. Experts are predicting a physician shortage of up to 124,000 by 2034. This shortage is due to several factors, including an aging population and burnout from a seemingly never-ending pandemic.
While a shortfall of physicians will have implications for patients, it also allows pharmacists to step up and become more actively involved in direct patient care.
The Changing Role of Pharmacists
Over half of the American population suffers from at least one chronic condition, and prescription medication is usually the first line of defense. Between 2015 and 2018, over half the population was taking at least one medication, and over 10 percent were taking five or more drugs to manage multiple conditions.
These numbers mean more patients than ever rely on their pharmacists to provide them with the prescriptions they need to manage their conditions. As a result, patients have more frequent interactions with their pharmacists, and pharmacists play a more central role in medication management and patient care.
Here are some specific ways the role of a pharmacist is growing as they work with patients more directly to deliver better outcomes.
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities
Pharmacists play a critical role in medication management among nursing home and assisted living populations. These facilities often turn to outside pharmacy providers for medication management. In addition, pharmacists help patients in these populations mitigate the risks associated with taking multiple prescription and over-the-counter medications.
In nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and elsewhere, pharmacists are starting to offer counseling services to ensure patients are not taking medications that can negatively interact with each other.
Pharmacists can write prescriptions under collaborative practice agreements with physicians in some states. This can help patients get faster access to the medication they need while taking some of the burdens off physicians. We should expect to see more states allow pharmacists to write prescriptions for certain types of medicines in the future.
Providing more care to rural communities
Getting counseling or a prescription from a pharmacist can significantly benefit people living in rural communities with limited access to physicians. Pharmacists in these communities will become critical members of a patient’s care team.
Front line workforce
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw pharmacists take on the role of a frontline worker by providing vaccinations and tests. This trend will continue into the future.
How to Reach Pharmacists with Healthcare Marketing
Because pharmacists have a growing role in managing patient care, it’s essential for healthcare marketers and brand managers to include pharmacists in their outreach.
You can reinforce the critical role pharmacists play in interacting with patients, prescribing medication, and offering counseling services through targeted messaging.