Pharmacists are the most accessible health care professional. Nearly 90% of Americans live within 5 miles of a community pharmacy. That’s closer than the doctor’s office, and likely closer than the nearest hospital for most people. Also, patients generally don’t need to make an appointment to see their pharmacist, and wait times are far shorter than the emergency room. So when the nearest community pharmacy also provides clinical care services, the community benefits.
The Asheville Project, launched in North Carolina in 1997, demonstrated how effective clinical care can be in the hands of community pharmacists. The objective of the program was to measure the effects of a community-based medication therapy management (MTM) program for chronic disease patients over a five-year period. The launch of the program focused on patients with diabetes, and the results were impressive:
- Average A1c levels decreased at all follow-ups, with more than half of the patients improving each time
- The number of patients with optimal A1c values (< 7%) increased at each follow-up
- Over half of patients showed improvements in lipid levels at every measurement
- Medical costs on the patients’ employers decreased by $1,200 per patient per year
The benefits of providing clinical care in your pharmacy cannot be overstated. So what needs to happen before you take that step? Here are four steps you need to take before you can offer clinical care in your pharmacy:
Step 1: Do Your Research
Unfortunately, not all states treat community pharmacists the same. As of October 2020, only 37 states recognize pharmacists as health care providers, making it difficult for them to get paid for providing clinical care to patients. Of those states, the number and types of clinical services pharmacists are allowed to provide to their patients varies. So before you start planning the clinical care arm of your pharmacy, reach out to your state pharmacy association and learn what services you can and can’t provide in your state.
Step 2: Create a Dedicated Patient Care Space
If you’re going to start providing clinical care for patients, you’re going to need a space to see them. It sounds obvious, but sometimes ambition can bulldoze right through practicality and lead to problems. Make sure you have the square footage to accommodate a dedicated patient care space, and be financially prepared to have it ready before you start providing care for patients. Your clinical care space doesn’t have to be as big as a standard doctor’s office, but it does need to be large enough to comfortably provide care and give you and your patients privacy.
Step 3: Establish a Clinical Documentation System
When it comes to patient care, if you didn’t document it, it didn’t happen. To get paid as a provider of clinical services, you must document the care you provide. Many pharmacy software solutions —including MedBill Clinical by EnlivenHealth® — offer clinical documentation platforms that allow pharmacists to create, update, and document care in comprehensive patient e-care plans.
Step 4: Elevate Your Pharmacy Technicians
Now that everything is set up, who is going to provide this clinical care? To make enough time and space for pharmacists to transition to a more service-oriented role, pharmacy technicians can step up and take a more active role in dispensing medication. In an article for Pharmacy Times, Lorne Basskin, PharmD writes, “Community pharmacists should move to a technician-driven, pharmacist-managed dispensing process.” This will free up the pharmacist to shift to a more clinical role while providing a learning opportunity for your pharmacy technicians.
The future of pharmacy lies beyond the fill. Providing clinical services for your patients benefits both your business and your community. Your business benefits from having an additional revenue stream that isn’t subject to clawbacks. Your community benefits from having a clinical care option that isn’t a busy doctor’s office or an emergency room. When you make the decision to provide clinical services to your patients, everyone wins.