The fifth edition of this special Rx-Impact report — inserted in headquarter copies of this issue of DSN and delivered to all current members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate — is meant to help educate lawmakers on the important role community pharmacy plays as the face of health care in neighborhoods all across America, helping to lower the cost of health care, improving patient access, advancing the quality of care and ultimately delivering better outcomes.
Like a powerful tide that gradually eats away at the foundations of a once-impregnable sea wall, the booming market for generic drugs advances and recedes with the rise and fall in the number of branded drug patent expirations each year.
“Better care, smarter spending, healthier people.” Those were the goals set forth by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in September when it unveiled plans for a five-year federal experiment to gauge the effectiveness of expanded medication therapy management for Medicare patients.
Going back at least to the mid-1800s, many community pharmacists have been given the informal title of “doc” or “doctor” by grateful local residents, particularly in smaller towns and rural communities where the local pharmacist might be the only health provider within miles. These days, the title is more than honorary; it’s a requirement.
The future of American health care could be summed up in one word — “connection.” To thrive in a fast-reforming healthcare system that demands better patient outcomes at a lower cost, pharmacies, physicians, hospitals, health systems, outpatient clinicians and diagnosticians are going to have to connect much more effectively, both with one another and with the patients they serve.
With medication nonadherence leading to enormous health complications for millions of Americans — and generating staggering and needless cost spikes that add as much as $290 billion a year to the nation’s healthcare costs — the search for ways to get patients to take their prescription medicines as directed has become increasingly urgent.
Here’s a fact that keeps health plan administrators and anyone else responsible for budgeting health costs awake at night: 1-in-5 hospital patients ends up back in the hospital within 30 days of their discharge. And the biggest factors pulling them back all have to do with medications — either through medication errors, nonadherence or adverse drug events.
For decades, the pharmacy profession labored under a widespread, but inaccurate, public perception of pharmacists as little more than dispensers of prescription medicines and givers of basic counseling on their use. No more. Pharmacists today are highly trained, clinically engaged patient-care specialists making a huge and rapidly growing impact on population health management in communities all over America.