Pharmacists on the front line

Pharmacists have a critical role to play in coordinating patient care.

Pharmacists have a critical role to play in coordinating patient care.

We are in the midst of an incredibly dynamic time for healthcare. It is now possible to envision an America where stakeholders, both public and private, work together to focus on patient needs and enhance quality of life, where access to high-quality prevention services and healthcare is available to all, and where innovative advancements address our country’s most pressing health care challenges.

Every day we see opportunities and examples where entities across the healthcare system have come together to positively shape our nation’s health – and healthcare system – for the future. 

This is not to say things are perfect. As every healthcare stakeholder, especially patients and providers, adjust to new coverage options and new ways of delivering care, there are bumps in the road. A “one-size-fits-all” approach doesn’t work any longer. Location makes a difference. Experts from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and other organizations tell us that in this new healthcare environment, our zip code may be more important to predicting our health status than our genetic code.

The more we understand this connection between our health and our community the more we can improve it.  That’s why we believe now – more than ever – that the pharmacy, on the frontline of care in every community across the United States, is key to improving the health of our nation. 

By now, we’re all well aware of the burden chronic diseases place on our healthcare system. Roughly half of all Medicare beneficiaries have five or more chronic conditions, and each year these patients have an average of 37 physician visits, with 14 different doctors, and 50 prescriptions filled. Chronic diseases also account for an oversized share of healthcare spending in the US. This is particularly evident in the Medicare program where beneficiaries with two or more chronic diseases currently account for 93% — about $487 billion annually — of Medicare spending. These numbers are even more shocking when you consider that 10,000 Baby Boomers age into the Medicare system each day and will continue to for the next 16 years.

Prescription medicines are important tools to help improve care for patients and minimize overall costs – and pharmacists have a critical role to play in coordinating patient care. 

That’s why three years ago, we created the GSK Community Pharmacy Team a dedicated group of mostly pharmacists who work together with community pharmacists to help improve medication adherence through education and other resources. We collaborate with pharmacists to promote appropriate utilization and adherence to chronic disease medications, especially with regards to counseling at the critical first prescription. 

We are also committed to finding better solutions to manage a patient’s medications. On the policy front, one approach that shows tremendous promise is comprehensive medication management. Comprehensive medication management – or CMM engages prescribing healthcare providers, pharmacists, patients and their caregivers to develop a shared care plan that meets the patient’s individual health needs. Rather than focusing on silos of care or single disease states, comprehensive medication management adopts a holistic view of patient care by reviewing patients’ prescription and non-prescription medicines to ensure that they’re appropriate and effective for that individual patient’s medical condition and treatment goals, safe and being taken as prescribed or directed. The result can be vastly improved clinical outcomes and quality, and lower overall healthcare costs. We’re seeing promising examples of collaboration between pharmaceuticals and the pharmacy with regard to CMM. 

We are in a period of unprecedented change in the healthcare system – but we’re also seeing unprecedented innovation – not just in how healthcare is being delivered, but in the biomedical innovation being discovered and developed by the pharmaceutical industry, academic researchers and other partners. Overall, these and other new biomedical breakthroughs from across the healthcare sector have the potential to improve millions of lives. However, ensuring they are understood by patients, used appropriately, and considered as part of a connected, and coordinated healthcare system requires not only the pharmaceutical industry, but the pharmacists as well. 

Working together, we can improve the health of people across America.