In an age where pharmacies are expected to do more than provide medication, community health workers add necessary value.
Pharmacies have evolved and are now expected to do more than just dispense medication. They’re also expected to connect with community members and be a resource for both medical and non-medical needs.
According to Tripp Logan, PharmD, co-owner of L&S Pharmacy and Medical Arts Pharmacy, “We [pharmacists] are where people were born, grow, work, live, and age…” Logan spoke during a session at this year’s NCPA Annual Convention, held October 1 through 4, 2022, in Kansas City, Missouri.1 Because of this, pharmacists take on a degree of responsibility for social determinants of health (SDOH).
SDoH are “conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, age, and a wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life.” One example of a SDOH is a person’s ability to access food. If, for example, an individual is unable to access food on a regular basis, it will have direct consequences on their health.
One vital player in caring for SDOH are community health workers. These are trusted community members who have a closer understanding of the community and liaise between health and social services. Community health workers in the pharmacy can help patients navigate the healthcare system, access local services, and promote healthy behaviors, and be a liaison for payer and provider partners.
It is important to have community health workers in pharmacies, said presenter Annie Eisenbeis, PharmD, MBA, director of practice development at the Missouri Pharmacy Association, because “pharmacy is also a healthcare resource that is sometimes the only option or opportunity for patients to have a touch point with a healthcare professional.”
Community health workers are what Logan calls a “value driver;” they increase the value of a pharmacy. The good news is? Training for community health workers is expanding. There are certification programs, community organizations that offer training, and even college programs that aim to train community health workers.
Community health work training can include things like mental health first aid certificates, motivational interviewing certificates, OTC product training certificates, and more.
There are many positive outcomes that come with caring for the SDoH of the community. One of these positive outcomes is improved medication adherence.
When Amy Hampton, health program manager at the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, learned about the rates of hypertension and diabetes in Missouri and patients’ dissatisfaction with their medications, she was shocked. “I reached out and said, ‘Well, how can we prevent them from stopping taking this medication?’... And so, I learned about medication therapy management,” Hampton explained.
“I learned about the education that pharmacies are [providing] across the state of Missouri. I said, ‘How can we help the pharmacy to be able to continue to give that medication when they’re so inundated with their daily tasks and how can we work this into the pharmacy flow?’”
It can be difficult to convince pharmacy staff to undergo the necessary additional training, but as Logan said, there are ways to incentivize staff members.
“What we’ve done is we’ve worked with the state and found incentive grants and other opportunities where the pharmacy is incentivized from a workforce development standpoint to create a sustainable place for community health workers.”
Drug Topics’ coverage of the 2022 NCPA Annual Convention and Expo is sponsored Prescryptive Health.