New Study Shows Pharmacist Interventions Are Healthcare Win-Win

New study results published August 4 in Health Affairs show that pharmacist interventions with patients led to improved healthcare outcomes and reduced healthcare costs. The findings suggest that when patients, in consultation with their pharmacists, follow their prescription drug regimens, it can lead to a decrease in emergency room visits and hospital readmissions.


NACDS, a longtime proponent of medication therapy management as an effective tool for increasing patients’ adherence to prescription drugs, spoke with the lead author of the study, Janice L. Pringle, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of  Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy. The following are edited excerpts from the interview.


Q: In the study, the Pennsylvania Project, community pharmacy is referred to as an ‘untapped resource.’ Why do you think that has been the case so far?


A: Community pharmacies have not been used to their full potential in supporting patients’ health and wellness. In terms of what pharmacists are trained to do and the services they could provide in a community setting, most of what community pharmacists do relates to dispensing and some immunization work, but they can do so much more and could be fully integrated into the healthcare arena and settings in a way that could be a win-win for payers and patients, and even healthcare itself.

Q: What models did you use in this particular study and why?

A: We used a model called screening and brief intervention, which takes about two to five minutes to do. We’ve come up with a way to do it so that it can be done in the course of pharmacy work, using motivational interview principles, so that it follows logically in an average pharmacy encounter.

Q: Why are community pharmacies an ideal setting for the interventional models you used in the study?

A: There are many community pharmacies located in close proximity to where patients live. They are easily accessible and patients, in some cases, can easily walk to them, so they become a prime location for providing interventions for patients with the chronic conditions outlined in the article [e.g., diabetes, high cholesterol]. Those large patient populations are currently not getting very consistent and systematic adherence interventions.

Q: What effect will these findings have on community pharmacy?

A: If you’re a community pharmacy, this is a way for your workforce to realize its potential. Pharmacists often feel underutilized and as if they don’t have a role in direct patient care. The pharmacists that participated in the study said they found it very rewarding because it’s what they wanted to do when they went to pharmacy school. I also think it’s a win for healthcare providers. I’m starting to hear more and more from physicians who say, ‘I really need a pharmacist. I don’t understand all these medications, and I know it’s impacting transitions of care. I know this is impacting what I’m being measured on.’

Q: Why do you think something as simple as these face-to-face interactions makes such a big difference?

A: In general, I think people feel they’re faceless and nameless in healthcare. They feel that nobody really knows or cares about them. It’s been demonstrated very reliably that the relationship between provider and patient can have a tremendous impact on the patient’s outcomes. These interventions help the pharmacist slow down and listen to the patient and react to the patient based on what the patient’s concerns and needs are. That makes the patient begin to feel the pharmacist is part of a partnership.


Related: Read a recent exclusive interview with the new editor-in-chief of Health Affairs, Alan Weil