It’s Time to Improve the Pharmacist/Physician Relationship


Pharmacists are often siloed from vital patient information- and this pharmacist thinks something needs to change.

Group of doctors and pharmacist

The sharing of clinical data between pharmacists and physicians has often been, quite frankly, relatively paltry.

While electronic health records (EHRs) vendors have shown little interest in investing in new development to provide clinical data to the pharmacist, the community pharmacist has been equally culpable due to the lack of consistent documentation in a usable structure with bedrock pharmacist interventions, such as drug therapy problems.

Related article: Pharmacists Get Involved in Direct Patient Care

Highlighting this siloed approach to data isn’t breaking news to the industry, but an emphasis on improving quality over the past few years has fueled a renewed interest in breaking down the traditional barriers to exchanging data. The most exciting–and likely to succeed–answer to the interoperability conundrum in pharmacy has recently hit the market and is already receiving steady adoption: the Pharmacist eCare Plan.

The eCare Plan project, spearheaded by the Pharmacy HIT Collaborative, will result in an improved communication between pharmacists and physicians. Essentially, pharmacists will be able to update the eCare Plan with details regarding a patient’s current medication regimen and health concerns, including drug therapy problems, therapeutic goals, and medication support needs, in addition to the pharmacy’s interventions and the patient’s health outcomes.

That information, through the eCare Plan, will be able to be received and consumed by any EHR, allowing the data to be used by the healthcare team in significant ways. Pharmacists who want to provide clinical services will want to use a vendor that harnesses this new technology. 

Previous efforts to solve interoperability issues revolved primarily around the utilization of a single platform that both physicians and pharmacists could access. As you can imagine, the likelihood of engaging pharmacists and physicians on the same platform is minimal. The Pharmacist eCare Plan leverages the current clinical documentation system of the pharmacist to communicate clinical data. 

In order to transfer the data to an EHR, the document must be written in a common language and format. This language, known as HL7 has been used in the healthcare landscape for several years. Also, this language must also be adequately structured into a specific template. These predefined templates, called Clinical Document Architectures (CDAs), allow any EHR to read the document. The Pharmacist eCare Plan, while not yet approved by HL7 as an official CDA template, is already gaining steam throughout the country.

This new technology comes at an opportune time as healthcare is experiencing a rapid movement towards improving quality of care. Through the Pharmacist eCare Plan, pharmacists can provide interventions–such as diabetes education and chronic care management–and provide care coordination by sharing the information and formal plan with the rest of the healthcare team. As a result, the Pharmacist eCare Plan has already piqued the interest of payers looking to improve outcomes and reduce costs of high-risk chronic care patients. 

Related article: How Pharmacists Can Team Up with Physicians to Improve Care

Due to the new ability to share data with other healthcare providers, this technology has kickstarted a revolution in the community pharmacy industry, encouraging pharmacists across the country to engage their patients with clinical opportunities, then document clinical findings in a usable way. This not only marks a significant and blazingly fast shift in the marketplace, but also serves as a launching pad for preparing community pharmacists for the next generation of pharmacy practice.

David Pope, PharmD, CDE, is chief of innovation and cofounder of STRAND. 

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