PHARMACY

NY Times highlights pharmacists’ evolving role

BY Jim Frederick

NEW YORK Adding plenty of fire power to the rapidly improving image of community pharmacists as essential and effective members of an integrated, team approach to health care, The New York Times ran a high-profile feature Friday on the patient-care efforts of independent and chain pharmacists, including one independent pharmacy owner in Augusta, Ga.

The story, which appeared on page one, highlights the evolving role pharmacists play in improving patient outcomes and medication adherence –– and in serving as “a buffer against an anticipated shortage of primary care doctors,” in the words of Times reporters Reed Abelson and Natasha Singer. The report also demonstrated pharmacists’ expertise in providing medication therapy management, and in working in collaboration with health plans like Blue Cross Blue Shield and Humana to improve outcomes and lower health costs.

Quoting independent pharmacist David Pope of Barney’s Pharmacy in Augusta, as well as one of his loyal patients, the article painted a largely favorable portrait of the fast-evolving pharmacy profession. It also highlights the patient-care and adherence efforts of such drug store and supermarket chains as Walgreens, Kroger, and Raley’s, along with pharmacy franchiser Medicine Shoppe.

Also featured: collaborative health efforts from groups such as  the Wisconsin Pharmacy Quality Collaborative.

“The pharmacists,” notes The Times, “represent the front line of detecting prescription overlap or dangerous interaction between drugs and for recommending cheaper options to expensive medicines.” In addition, say the writers, pharmacists have “the education, expertise, free time and plain-spoken approach to talk to patients at length about what medicines they are taking and to keep close tabs on their well-being.”

The Times article is one of several high-profile reports to appear in print, television and online media over the past year exploring the expanding role pharmacists play in community health and cost-saving initiatives. Such groups as the National Community Pharmacists Association and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores –– which promotes community pharmacy as “the face of neighborhood health care” –– have waged a long campaign to boost recognition of pharmacists’ value among both consumers and policymakers in Washington.

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East Harlem walk-in asthma center opens

BY Antoinette Alexander

NEW YORK Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer have announced the opening of a new asthma walk-in center in East Harlem, where the rate of childhood asthma hospitalizations is the highest in the city.

The new East Harlem walk-in asthma center — an expansion of the East Harlem Asthma Center of Excellence and a part of the City’s PlaNYC initiative — is aimed to reduce childhood asthma hospitalizations by 50% over the next five years.

The center is one of the key initiatives of Stringer’s Go Green East Harlem, a collaborative community-based initiative that has focused on five core areas: public health and healthy food, parks and open space, sustainable business, transportation, and green building.

The walk-in center staff worked out of the East and Central Harlem District Public Health Office before the new space was completed. The $3.5 million project included $700,000 from the Manhattan borough president’s office. The Department of Citywide Administrative Services provided site selection and project management services for the construction.

The new walk-in center will offer a number of asthma-related services, including on-site asthma assessments, individual and group asthma education, social support services, one-on-one asthma counseling, linkage to services to rid homes of asthma-triggering pests and mold and referrals for medical care. The walk-in center will also include a library with educational materials and computers with Internet access to help families learn the best strategies to manage asthma.

More than 25% of the children in East Harlem have asthma, and East Harlem has the highest rate of childhood asthma hospitalizations in the city. In 2008, 11-of-every-1,000 East Harlem children ages 14 years and younger were hospitalized. In 2008, Stringer and the Health Department’s East and Central Harlem District Public Health Office founded the East Harlem Asthma Center of Excellence to address the issue.

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Stew Leonard’s offers employees on-site physicals

BY Antoinette Alexander

NORWALK, Conn. Stew Leonard’s recently brought into its Yonkers store nurses and doctors from Inter-State Diagnostic to conduct on-site physicals for its team members as part of its commitment to preventive health care, the company announced.

The program kicked off Aug. 2 with 24 associates receiving their annual physical performed by a medical team with Inter State Diagnostic. The associates reported to a conference room above the store for blood work, an EKG and complete physical. Inter-State Diagnostic’s doctors and nurses provided privacy screens and all necessary medical equipment, and met with each team member regarding their healthcare-related questions. A translator for Stew Leonard’s Spanish-speaking employees also was on hand.

On-site physicals are the latest example of how the grocer has taken an active approach to preventive health care for its more than 2,500 employees. On-site cholesterol and blood pressure screenings, mammograms and flu shots are offered throughout year and discounts on weight-loss programs, smoking cessation aids, and fitness center memberships also are provided to both full and part-time team members. In addition, through  Aug 31, Stew Leonard’s will give team members up to $500 in Benefit Bucks ­or money toward their deductible ­ to encourage them to visit their doctor for their annual checkup.

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