Pharmacists to Transform Patient Care in Next Decade

New research shows that the role of pharmacists is expanding to meet increasing demands for access to health care.

This topic was the focus of a breakout session at Outcomes+ 2022.

Pharmacists may often be thought of as “behind-the-scenes” health care workers, dispensing medications, checking for potential drug interactions, and confirming benefit coverage. At Express Scripts Pharmacy, our 1,000+ pharmacists do much more, and new research shows that the role of the pharmacist will continue to expand into the next decade.

The Prescription of Trust – Pharmacists transforming patient care

This new research report, led by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, shows how pharmacists play an integral role in health care and how their role is expanding to meet the increased demand for access to quality care. The study explored the evolving role of pharmacists over the next 10 years by surveying more than 3,000 patients, 1,000 pharmacists, and 500 other health care providers (including physicians and nurse practitioners). Here are some key findings of the survey, conducted in November and December 2021:

Pharmacists’ Responsibilities Will Expand

Pharmacists, providers, and patients agree that pharmacists are well-positioned to provide more patient care, filling gaps in access to other health care providers.

  • More than 85% of pharmacists agree that they will see increased patient counseling responsibilities, take on a bigger role in preventive care measures, and be more integrated in care management teams.
  • 63.4% of providers agree that pharmacists will play a greater role in preventive care activities; 51.1% agree that pharmacists will have greater specialization in specific diseases.
  • More than half of the patients surveyed would be extremely or very comfortable with pharmacists checking vital signs (76.2%); diagnosing acute conditions (54.9%); and prescribing medications for acute conditions (58.1%).

Providers, Patients Trust Pharmacists

Patients and providers have high trust for pharmacists in fulfilling their traditional role as well as expanded roles.

  • 77.3% of patients see pharmacists as an integral part of the health care team.
  • When providers were asked whether they trusted pharmacists to perform specific activities for patients with chronic conditions, providers noted a high level of trust for traditional pharmacist tasks, with high to moderate trust often exceeding 90 percent.

As Roles Change, So Does Patient Engagement

As consumers seek greater interaction with their pharmacist to better manage their overall health, the ways that interaction takes place is also evolving.

Patients’ use of telehealth services has significantly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite that, consumers’ adoption of telepharmacy services (via phone or video) may be slower. Our research shows that 71.1% of patients did not engage with a pharmacist via video in the past year, while only 16.0% of pharmacists currently engage with patients via telepharmacy all or most of the time.

Yet, the study showed that nearly half (49.7%) of patients would find it extremely or very helpful to have routine testing and medical visits done from home.

Home delivery pharmacists engage more with patients via telepharmacy, at 55.6%, while retail pharmacists indicated less engagement, at 14.5%. Of pharmacists who utilize this technology, more than a third (35.2%) say it gives them more time to interact with patients, allowing them to provide crucial information and support when patients need it most. This endorsement may also be attributed to an increased level of comfort of having a conversation regarding personal health issues with a patient from the privacy of their home.

The research also provided insights into the need for additional training for pharmacists to take on more direct patient care responsibilities. Specifically, pharmacists said that to meet the patient needs of the future, they needed additional knowledge in chronic disease education (35.5%), diagnosing (17.4%), and prescribing (13.3%).

Beyond traditional pharmacy dispensing activities, Express Scripts Pharmacy pharmacists practice within our Therapeutic Resource Center model – which matches patients and prescriptions to specially trained pharmacists to ensure safe and effective medication. Patients can reach a specially trained pharmacist for their chronic condition 24/7 for medication counseling and disease management. This new research confirms that our model of care is set to take us into the future of pharmacy.

Learn more about the expanding role of pharmacists by downloading an executive summary of the report as well as an infographic with key findings from the report.

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