Innovation and Inspiration: Pharmacists Rethink Pharmacy

Leaders from across the health care industry — pharmacists, economists, physicians — joined us bright and early Monday morning for the first Next-Generation Pharmacist industry insights roundtable, Helping Patients Live Better: Pharmacists in a Value-Driven Health Care System.

This conversation focused on how pharmacists are helping improve patient outcomes and lower health care costs and how we can continue to advance the profession and perception of pharmacy.

Meet the panelists.

  • Our moderator Troy Trygstad, PharmD, holds an MBA and a PhD in Pharmaceutical Policy and Outcomes. He currently serves as director of the Network Pharmacist Program and Pharmacy Projections for Community Care of North Carolina and is a co-editor of the Pharmacy Times publication Directions in Pharmacy.
  • Fred M. Eckel, RPh, MS, ScD (Hon), is Editor-in-Chief of Pharmacy Times, a professor emeritus at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and emeritus executive director of the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists.
  • James F. Fries, MD, is renowned worldwide as an expert in healthy aging and long-term outcomes. Perhaps best known for his compression of morbidity hypothesis, Fries has published over 300 articles, 11 books and numerous book chapters and invited papers.
  • Samuel Stolpe, PharmD, is Director of Quality Initiatives at the Pharmacy Quality Alliance. Prior to joining PQA, Stolpe held roles in community pharmacy, academia and pharmacy association management. Stolpe is the recipient of the 2014 Rising Star award.
  • Over the past year, Tom Rhoads, CEO of Parata Systems, a leading provider of pharmacy technology solutions, has convened several discussions among pharmacists and other providers to discuss the role of pharmacists and technology in a value-based system.
  • Joseph Moose, PharmD, is a fourth-generation pharmacist with Moose Pharmacies. He is an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy and is actively involved in several pharmacy organizations and committees in North Carolina.
  • As vice president of policy research at the Network for Excellence in Health Innovation, Tom Hubbard leads projects on comparative effectiveness research, patient medication adherence, and prevention and wellness initiatives to examine ways the U.S. health care system can be transformed.

Rethinking pharmacy: What should it be?

With these industry leaders driving the discussion and inviting participation from the progressive health care professionals in attendance, the conversation quickly dove below surface-level issues.

“We all know pharmacists are well positioned to ensure continuity of care, and we have the experience and expertise to impact patient outcomes,” Eckel acknowledged. “We’re collaborators. It’s time to truly collaborate.”

To many of our panelists, this requires rethinking pharmacy.

“If we want to influence outcomes, it starts within our own pharmacies,” said Moose. “We’re in the wellness business. In addition to making the most of each brief interaction in the pharmacy, we need to pursue ways to engage with patients beyond the pharmacy to consistently encourage healthy lifestyles. Each member of your team — from your technicians to your delivery driver — must understand the important role they’re playing in patient care.”

In a room of pharmacy and health care leaders, this got a lot of nods. But how does the public view pharmacy?

“Let’s face it: In an urban area like Boston, I can look out the window and see several pharmacies within walking distance,” Trygstad said. “Most of the people walking down the street still think of a pharmacy as a place to go when they need cold medicine or a gallon of milk on the way home. How do we change that?”

In response, Rhoads issued a challenge: “Put yourself outside your pharmacy, your practice, your profession. If you imagine an ideal pharmacy experience, without the context of its current state, what does it look like?”

The audience chimed in. Here’s a bit of what we heard:

  • An ideal pharmacy looks like a place of community and a center for wellness — somewhere to come when you want to be healthy, rather than just not be sick.
  • Instead of counting pills, a pharmacist is available to coach individuals on their journey to their health and wellness goals.
  • A nutritionist or dietician reaches out to discuss healthy eating options and provide a meal plan and shopping list.
  • A physical trainer congratulates you on reaching your latest fitness mile marker and encourages you on the way to the next goal.

Some of the pharmacists in the audience are already working towards that vision. Barry Bryant, RPh, CDM, CFTs and 2014 Entrepreneur, described some of the initiatives Barney’s Pharmacy in August, Georgia, has had success with.

“We wanted to get our patients up and moving,” said Bryant. “So, we offered a jazzercise class in the pharmacy — and people showed up!”

“Over the years, the biggest health threat facing our nation has shifted from lack of vaccinations to cigarettes to sedentary lifestyles,” Fries said. “Pharmacists have access to patients that is needed to provide most the important part of behavior change: reinforcement.”

According to the panelists, advancements in technology and improvements across the industry will help health care professionals work together to influence change and impact patient outcomes.

They agree that technology will need to do more while requiring patients to do less. To support medication adherence and safe medication use, Hubbard says solutions “need to be as easy on the patient as possible — even invisible to the patient.”

Stolpe hopes that in coming years, quality measure sets will span professions to promote collaboration across disciplines and form a more comprehensive, lasting guide for quality care.

“The measures in the current marketplace don’t tie together the health care professions…and we don’t have signals for drug therapy failures,” Stolpe said.

For more on the topics discussed, be sure to check out the August 2014 issue of Direction in Pharmacy, a special publication by Pharmacy Times. Many of our roundtable panelists contributed an article to this special issue.