What are pharmacies capable of, and how do we work to reach those possibilities?
During the Total Pharmacy Solutions Summit, held on April 8, 2023, Paige Clark, RPh, vice president of pharmacy programs and policy at Prescryptive Health, led a session about what pharmacies are capable of, what pharmacists can and can’t do, and how pharmacists can utilize the capabilities of their business to best assist the community around them. “We as pharmacy practitioners are the center of our communities,” Clark said. “We are the most eff ective way to expand the reach of primary care in our communities.”
Approximately 60% of Americans can envision most primary care services being provided at pharmacies instead of through primary care physicians. Those respondents cite potential savings as one reason that a pharmacist-based care plan would appeal to them. Prescription drug spending was nearly $350 million in 2020, with out-of-pocket costs accounting for 13% of that expenditure—an amount nearly 3 times higher in the United States than in other countries.
“There is a role for us all to play in drug pricing itself,” Clark said. Affordability should never be an issue, but so many Americans have trouble aff ording lifesaving medications.
Before the health care world is in a place where pharmacists’ capabilities are fully expanded, the scope of practice within pharmacies must be expanded. “How do we modernize our pharmacy operations?” Clark asked.
Understanding and then using technology’s increasing presence in pharmacy is certainly one way to help move toward a world in which pharmacists’ capabilities are fully realized. As technology becomes more advanced, the strategy of storing data in pharmacy continues to change.
“What’s really changed ever so quickly in community pharmacy is our access to, utilization of, and storage of patient-sensitive data. We have to take this very seriously,” Clark said.
Gaining trust from patients is essential in a world where cyberattacks are so common. Being aware of all potential threats that cybercriminals can pose to your pharmacy and staying vigilant at all times are great ways to earn confidence from patients that their information, data, and privacy will be protected. The lack of advanced security protections in health care is the biggest roadblock to achieving full security of the data that a pharmacy oversees. But cybersecurity isn’t the only way in which a pharmacy can begin to fall behind in the security and safety department. Choosing vendors and technology partners with forward-thinking mindsets about patient data and security is paramount in making sure all steps are being taken to protect data.
“We need to become much more aware of how [individuals] are handling our data and what questions we ask….There are a lot of vendors who are stepping into our space because they perceive there is money to be made. We need to be able to sort that out,” Clark said. In other words, know whom you’re associating with. Make sure the individuals you work with in the technology sector have your best interest and your patients’ best interests in mind. Finding trusted, secure technology partners will do wonders for every aspect of a pharmacy.
Once a pharmacy finds those trusted partners, what should be requested of them? How does a pharmacy fully use the services that a partner can offer? Of course, receiving feedback and clear communication, along with being specific about what type of upgrades your business requires, is key. Be sure you are getting the most out of your partners, not just the other way around.
Billy Chow, RPh, vice president and head of operations at Prescryptive Health, concluded the session by discussing pharmacies that make the leap to clinical services. “This whole notion of us moving into clinical service, it’s really not new,” Chow said. “Thirty years ago, in Washington state, that was the first organized vaccine administration in the nation. At that moment, pharmacy already started the journey of delivering a higher level of cognitive and clinical services.”
How does a pharmacy make prescribing part of their practice? Being familiar with current pharmacy practice regulations is a great place to start. The safety, health, and well-being of patients should always be the most important aspect of running a pharmacy. Following proper rules and regulations about the prescribing and management of medications is another way to do that; trusting your team will also go a long way. Making sure the staff around you are confident and competent in the work they do will springboard a pharmacist toward success. “Let’s set realistic goals and expectations. Never take for granted the fact that your team [members] are probably the best ambassadors and the most knowl-edgeable about what you can do,” Chow said.
As we enter a new era of prescribing and clinical services coming from the pharmacy sector, remember that “pharmacists have the [statistics]. Now it’s time to gain the status,” Chow explained. The use of technol-ogy in pharmacy will help jump-start a new era of prescribing and pharmaceutical capabilities. Know-ing how to use that technology will always be key. “Technology is great when it works,” Chow said, “but an awful nightmare when you don’t have the right technology partners.”