Community Pharmacies: New Study Shows Importance of the Role for Value-Based Care


July 28th, 2020

A new study supports community pharmacies are a critical factor in managing healthcare for Medicare patients. They play a key role in community health.

community pharmacies

Community pharmacies don’t get the credit they deserve. They are often an underutilized asset in the healthcare ecosystem. We know this, and many others do as well. A new study published in JAMA moves any conjecture out of the conversation. 

The study sought to answer this question, “How often do Medicare patients visit community pharmacies versus primary care physicians?”

Why does this question matter? The authors point out that value-based care is the current focus of healthcare. And with value-based care comes preventative care and management of chronic conditions. Pharmacists are instrumental in the delivery of value-based care. 

To understand how pharmacists can be a more involved party in prevention and management, the authors wanted to learn about the frequency of pharmacy visits.  

About the Study

The study includes approximately 5% of the Medicare beneficiaries for the calendar year 2016. For those patients, the researchers determined their visits to the pharmacy and their primary care physician. 

The study reported that these patients have more encounters with pharmacists than primary care physicians (13 vs. 7). These numbers represent that Medicare patients have almost twice as many interactions with a pharmacist than a physician.

Why Does This Study Matter?

First, it’s the first study of its kind to compare the frequency of visits between two different areas of healthcare. It shows the potential for pharmacy engagement and intervention. 

Many of the visits to the pharmacy relate to prescription drug pickups and other self-care purchases. In these interactions, there is a great opportunity for pharmacies to deliver patient-centered services. A pharmacist, in most cases, is much more accessible than a physician. 

Pharmacists are available to talk with patients about medications as well as deliver services around prevention and management. The authors suggest this is possible with the integration of services so that pharmacy is no longer in a silo. 

They urge transformation in the way that providers and pharmacists collaborate. By working together, the pursuit of value-based care is more feasible. 

Community Pharmacies: A Transforming and Evolving Role

community pharmacies value based care

Pharmacists are already on the front lines in care delivery. They’ve been integral to COVID-19 testing. They also contribute to vaccinations every year because of the convenience. Patients simply request the vaccine at the pharmacy instead of having to make an appointment.

What more can pharmacists do? There is so much more for pharmacists to contribute to public health. Their insights and experience should always be part of the discussion. 

They deserve a seat at the table—one that’s been hard to get. Consider the fact that many opioid task forces in healthcare systems didn’t have a pharmacy member until recently. Further, there’s no mention of pharmacy in the HHS Interoperability Rule

Pharmacies can also contribute to conversations with the valuable data they have. The data you hold could inform care now and in the future. It’s something that all stakeholders in healthcare should have on their radar as community pharmacies change and evolve. What are your thoughts? How will pharmacist roles transform to strengthen value-based care? 

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