Have you heard the news? Pharmacists are changing primary care physicians’ jobs

The history of medicine is a history of disruption. From smallpox vaccines to germ theory, from sequencing our genetic code to telemedicine, each stage of the industrial revolution has seen disruptive advancements in the pharmaceuticals and technologies used to drive better patient outcomes.

So here we are, in the midst of Industry 4.0; what’s the latest disruptor in medicine? Take a quick scan of the headlines, and you’re likely to say ChatGPT. But that novel technology still depends on the expertise of its users. And that brings us to RxLive’s point-of-view: pharmacists.

As in-the-flesh medication experts, clinical pharmacists are here to disrupt the burden of delivering quality care. In short, clinical pharmacists are here to make physicians’ jobs easier.

The pharmaceutical expertise pharmacists bring to clinical networks decreases physician workloads. How? By providing personalized, high-touch, high-satisfaction care for all patients. In this post, we’ll look at three reasons physicians should empower pharmacists to work at the top of their license.

Value-based care depends on outcomes, not volume

The transition from fee-for-service to a value-based model has revolutionized healthcare. Today, instead of being paid for how many patients they’ve seen, physicians’ reimbursement is directly indexed to the health outcomes achieved throughout their empaneled populations.

So embedding pharmacists into your care team isn’t simply a matter of increasing capacity. It’s about allowing each member of your team to focus on what they do best, increasing the likelihood that outcomes will improve throughout each area of your practice. 

When pharmacists are empowered to own medication management – that is, their clinical expertise – practices benefit from:

  • Better educated patients. From advising about potential interactions like how drinking pineapple juice increases the concentration of certain medications in the bloodstream, to explaining why it’s important to complete a course of antibiotics even when feeling better, pharmacists communicate the knowledge critical to patients experiencing…
  • Fewer adverse medical events. Understanding how, why, and when to take medications increases the likelihood that patients will take their medications as prescribed, maximizing the impact of those medications on patient health, leading to…
  • Decreased costs. The healthier patients are overall, the less likely they are to get sick, develop comorbidities, and be hospitalized. The result? Fewer patient dollars spent on out-of-pocket costs like copays and deductibles. 

The upshot? Increased revenue for your practice as a direct reflection of improved patient outcomes. Next, let’s take a look at what it means for those outcomes to improve patient satisfaction.

Personalized Care Improves Patient Satisfaction

In the old fee-for-service, volume-based model of healthcare, patient satisfaction was an afterthought. Sure, having happier patients has always been good – but it was, at best, a tertiary benefit. There were simply too many patients, and too little time, to make truly personalized care a priority. 

But in 2023, that can no longer be the case. First, delivering personalized care is the human – the right, the empathetic – thing to do. Second, happier patients are healthier patients. And third: let’s say 2023 is the Year of Patient Experience. 

That is, this year is when patient experience becomes a quadruple rated quality measure.

For providers, this means the quality of care they provide will have a rightsized impact on their patients’ satisfaction and, as a result, the reimbursement payers deliver for providing that care.

But patients in the US seek primary care for more than 50 percent of physician appointments. That means volume remains a factor even as it no longer directly impacts compensation. So how can primary care physicians ensure their patients receive the education necessary to maintain better health, decreasing costs and improving their overall experiences in healthcare?

Enter pharmacists.

Pharmacist-led interventions are key to impactful primary care

When it comes down to it, RxLive’s position is simple: when pharmacists are able to work at the top of their license, it frees up all clinicians to work at the top of theirs, too. So it’s no surprise that pharmacist-led interventions are key to delivering efficient, comprehensive primary care.

Consider, for example, a 67-year-old female smoker with high cholesterol and a family history of heart disease. For the sake of our story, let’s call her Jane. Currently, Jane’s daily medication regimen consists of Amlodipine 5 mg, Losartan 25 mg, and Hydrochlorothiazide 50 mg. Her next scheduled PCP appointment is in six months. And since can’t afford specialty care, she’s started skipping her cardiology appointments.

Recently, Jane started experiencing dizzy spells. And though she’s yet to be injured, she’s fallen a few times without an easy explanation for why. But just as she can’t afford her specialty care, she’s apprehensive about paying for unplanned PCP or emergency room visits. So she’s avoiding care, potentially putting her health at greater risk.

Embedding technology-powered pharmacists into Jane’s primary care team, however, helps address this issue. To start, a pharmacist could reach out to Jane via telehealth to proactively check in on her between scheduled appointments. Then, after hearing Jane’s symptoms, the pharmacist could…

  • Conduct medication review. Pharmacists would quickly recognize Amlodipine as the likely cause of Jane’s dizziness and falls.
  • Recommend modifications to care plans. Tapering and then discontinuing the Amlodipine would likely relieve Jane’s symptoms. And her blood pressure would remain under control using Losartan and Hydrochlorothiazide.

With prescriptive authority, the pharmacist would be able to take work off of the PCP’s plate by initiating and monitoring the recommended change to Jane’s medications. But even in states where that isn’t possible, doing this initial work, then coordinating with the PCP, is a huge help.

Technology-powered pharmacists help deliver consistent care 

The facts are clear: Industry 4.0 is here. And the advancements, like those in AI, are already paying dividends for the care teams that know how best to use them. Elicit, for example, helps find relevant research papers without a perfect keyword search. And RxLive’s own technology, RxLive.ai, helps automate more efficient empanelment, medication management, and risk stratification.

Interested in fully realizing the value of pharmacy? Get in touch to learn more about how RxLive’s technology-powered pharmacists drive positive disruption to deliver consistently better care.

Kristen Engelen, PharmD
Kristen Engelen, PharmD, is the chief pharmacy officer of RxLive and a certified consultant pharmacist; she has over a decade of experience in retail pharmacy settings. Kristen became an RxLive co-founder because of her passion for geriatric pharmacy, with a focus on the intersection of pharmacy and aging.