Collaborative care alchemy: Pharmacists + nurses = gold

Last month, the American Journal of Managed Care published a review of more than 40 years worth of studies from various medical journals that demonstrated that the best way to improve adherence is to get patients to talk to the store pharmacist; the second-best way is to get them to talk to a nurse before they leave the hospital.

“There have been many studies on the subject of boosting adherence,” said William Shrank of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard University, who led the team of researchers that carried out the study, sponsored by CVS Caremark. “We decided it was important to review the total body of work to determine which communication channel had the greatest impact.”

In all, the study covered more than 6,500 journal articles published between 1966 and 2008. “These findings offer payers, healthcare providers and policy-makers guidance about how to develop programs that improve patient adherence,” CVS Caremark chief medical officer Troyen Brennan said.

As the clock ticks away toward full implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2014, and with Republicans in the new Congress hell-bent on repealing or at least replacing the parts of it they don’t like — even if they can’t — there is going to be more attention paid to how all this extra health care is going to get paid for and what America is getting for its money. Fixing adherence is worth about one-third of the total cost of health reform.

Drug Store News has believed in the power of pharmacists and nurses to improve health care for several years. It was a key reason we added Retail Clinician magazine to The Drug Store News Group in 2006 — you didn’t have to be a fancy Harvard doctor to see that pharmacists and nurse practitioners working together in a collaborative care setting was going to be a big part of the future of health care in America. We wanted to help connect the dots between these two incredibly important groups of practitioners to help close the gaps in access and affordability in the U.S. healthcare system.

This year, we are taking that commitment to a new level. A new addition to the program at the fourth annual Retail Clinician Education Congress this August will feature a special day of Collaborative Care Track education, including six dually accredited continuing education sessions for pharmacists and nurse practitioners. The topics are targeted specifically to pharmacists and NPs practicing in a pharmacy/retail clinic environment. We want to help get these two critically important healthcare professionals closer together in the interest of driving better patient outcomes. 

If you have retail clinics in any of your pharmacies, I strongly encourage you to send some of your key pharmacy managers to RCEC this year. Contact me at if you need more information.

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