“Collaborative” is a good word for a hive of bees, but not a compliment you usually hear describing traditional healthcare systems. Most of our nation’s physicians were trained to work independently. Healthcare leaders value individual expertise and independence – and because of that, we miss the strength of combining that expertise into a cohesive system of care.
When communication between providers can mean the difference between a good outcome and a bad one, a high-cost treatment or high-value treatment, working together is imperative.
Now, providers must work together with a singular focus of improving population health. That means making care more accessible, delivering high-quality results at affordable prices, and preventing people from becoming patients in the first place.
One area that’s often overlooked in this effort is the pharmacy and the services pharmacists deliver to patients.
How Pharmacy Plays a Part in Population Health
A growing number of health systems and their internal pharmacists are recognizing the need to play a different role in the overall delivery of care. They’re realizing how all providers need to be engaged in the goal of improving population health to enhance the places we currently fall short – like transitions of care and chronic disease management. So how exactly can pharmacy influence population health?
- Mitigating bad outcomes from poor medication adherence: Among patients prescribed oral oncology drugs, adherence rates are reported to be as low as 20 percent. However, among Commcare Specialty Pharmacy patients, who receive counseling, medication therapy management services, round-the-clock access to clinical pharmacists, and other services, adherence is nearly 97 percent.
- Ensuring that patients have easy access to medications before they leave the hospital: If retail pharmacies are integrated into a health system, they have a better chance of ensuring patients are well educated on their treatment plan and have access to their medications before they’re discharged.
- Providing patient medication adherence data to providers: Integrated pharmacies allow visibility to providers that allow them to target those patients who may be having trouble with copays or following their discharge plans.
Like a healthy hive of bees, integrated systems using these best practices share information in every direction and don’t confuse being “busy” with being “productive.”
Keeping pharmacies connected to population health is critical to delivering low-cost, high-quality healthcare. As we work to transform the healthcare system, we’re always looking at other people and industries who have found innovative ways to do things. In this case, maybe another species has the right idea.
 K. Ruddy, E. Mayer, A. Partridge, “Patient adherence and persistence with oral anticancer treatment,” CA Cancer J Clin 59(2009):56-66.
Michael J. Alkire
I’m a healthcare executive from Ohio who helps healthcare organizations provide higher quality care at a better cost. When I’m not working you’ll find me spending time with my family, likely at one of my children’s sporting events.