Health care is evolving. As obvious of a statement as that is, it doesn’t change the fact that it is very real. Throughout last year, there was intense discussion on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and what impact the outcome of the presidential election might have on its future. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled and elections are settled, healthcare companies and providers across the country are implementing strategies to meet ACA requirements.
Under ACA, 17 million people are expected to be added to state Medicaid programs in 2014. At the same time, a growing shortage of physicians is developing. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates our country will have 45,000 too few patient care physicians by 2020. These two factors alone present a tremendous opportunity for an untapped resource of highly trained clinical professionals — pharmacists — to step into a new role.
As physician shortages develop, the pharmacies are in a unique position to not only serve as convenient sites for receiving non-urgent, clinical care, but to also maximize the opportunity to provide patient education on the health benefits of things like immunizations. Pharmacies have focused on that role in recent years and will likely continue to do so. For example, according to the American Pharmacists Association, the number of pharmacists nationwide trained to deliver vaccines has quadrupled since 2007.
Simply put, when it comes to clinical care, the pharmacy is convenient for the patient and can be a cost effective alternative within health care. Just the other day, I went to my regular pharmacy, signed a form, got my flu shot and went home with ice cream. If you’re going to get a shot, why not go home with dessert? My calendar is filled with meetings like many of you. The fact that I was able to do all of this at 8 p.m. just might have been the difference between me receiving my flu shot this year or not.
And, what began with vaccines in the pharmacy is quickly expanding into additional clinical services like medical therapy management, onsite clinics and in some cases lab work. Without a doubt, the way in which patients consume health care is expected to change dramatically in the coming years.
That transformation, coupled with an evolving regulatory environment, drives the need for efficient exchange of healthcare information among all types of providers. Pharmacies will begin to need discharge summaries and lab results, while hospitals and physicians can greatly benefit from having access to patient medication history. How valuable would it be for a physician to know if a prescription is actually filled by the patient, or for the pharmacy to know what medications the patient took at the hospital? Complete and accurate data can improve the efficiency with which the healthcare ecosystem operates. I am optimistic that as the various players in health care begin to work together to share this vital information, we can all better serve the patient and reduce the overall cost of health care.
Emdeon EVP of pharmacy services
As EVP of pharmacy services at Emdeon, Kevin Mahoney oversees the company’s entire pharmacy services division including strategic initiatives, industry partnerships and pharmacy product development for all pharmacy products. Mahoney has spent more than 25 years in the healthcare industry with a predominant focus in pharmacy. Mahoney received a Bachelor of Arts in accounting from Belmont Abbey College and an Master of Business Administration from Pace University.