Health System Pharmacy Collaboration

Drug Topics JournalDrug Topics April 2020
Volume 164
Issue 4

What does it mean for patients?


Health system pharmacies collaborate with a variety of groups and other health professionals, depending on the topic or area with which they want input and collaboration. For patient care, they collaborate with other health professionals (ie physicians, physician extenders, nurses, case managers, social workers, laboratory and radiology technicians, or other pharmacists). They will also review current literature and reference articles-and may even contact the drug manufacturer-when determining the appropriateness of drug therapy for a patient’s condition.

Pharmacies collaborate with professional associations, regulatory agencies, drug wholesalers, and peers when they are seeking information related to regulatory requirements, best practices, and drug shortages. Pharmacies will also seek out consultants and other subject matter experts to do the best job possible. Although pharmacists are known as the drug experts, they aren’t afraid to seek out others for guidance and to make sure they are following the appropriate rules and guidelines.

“While medications are based in science, there is also patient variability, so collaborating is important when a patient does not fit the standard indications for a drug therapy or is experiencing a side effect,” said Barbara Giacomelli, PharmD, FASHP, vice president, advisory services for McKesson RxO. “Pharmacy as a profession is highly regulated, and like other aspects of health care, changing rapidly, whether related to medication therapy advancement, insurance coverage, technology advancement, drug shortages, or new regulations.”

Cathy Kuhn, PharmD, director of strategy consulting at Updox and the APhA-APPM president and board trustee with the American Pharmacists Association, said it’s also important for health-system pharmacies to collaborate with pharmacies outside of the health system, which may include a patient’s community pharmacy. “Collaboration is critical to ensuring patient safety and optimal clinical outcomes, ultimately enhancing high-value care,” she said. “When pharmacists and prescribers work together as one cohesive unit, they can effectively impact health care by minimizing prescription confusion, reducing health care costs, and transforming the patient experience.”

Charles Lee, MD, senior director of clinical knowledge for First Databank, a provider of integrated drug and medical device databases that supports health care professionals, said the health system pharmacist is in a unique position as the coordinator of the team’s medication therapy plan and education for the patient. “In many organizations, the health system pharmacist has been evolving from just dispensing medications into being a member of a coordinated clinical care team in collaboration with prescribers, nurses, caregivers, and other pharmacists,” he said. “They often make clinical rounds with other team members. They participate in developing medication therapy plans, dispensing (including compounding) [medications], monitoring patients’ responses to treatments, and providing patient education.”

Effect on Patients

These collaborations all come back to patient safety. Kuhn noted that, although providers are tasked with consulting patients, diagnosing illnesses, and prescribing medication, pharmacists work every day to ensure patients are properly taking their medications as prescribed and avoiding any harmful effects-acting as a vital component in the patient care cycle. “And since patients expect the care they receive to be seamless, both parties must communicate and collaborate accordingly to ensure patient needs are being met, thus resulting in improved health outcomes,” she said.

Giacomelli noted that advances in medication therapies mean disease states that were once difficult to manage now have drugs that can benefit patients, but these therapies tend to be higher in cost and out-of-pocket expenses for patients. “Drug shortages also are a challenge for patients, and pharmacists collaborate to determine best alternative therapies so patient care isn’t compromised,” she said. “The patient comes first, and pharmacists collaborate to make sure they receive the best care possible.”

Quality patient care requires health care professionals to work as a team. With the complexities of medical care, PBMs, drug shortages, new therapies versus traditional therapies, etc, it is important for pharmacists to collaborate with the entire health care team. “As drug treatment becomes more personalized-such as genomic treatments- therapy team models with health system pharmacists in a central coordinator role will becoming increasingly more important to improve cost efficiencies and to optimize medication therapy outcomes among the health systems population,” Lee said.

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