Community Pharmacists Can Help Reduce Drug-Related Hospitalizations

By Kevin Schweers

Community pharmacists can play a vital role in reducing medication-related hospitalizations, NCPA argues in a recent letter to U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) recently urged HHS to establish a new federal taskforce dedicated to determining how adverse drug events can be reduced. Their interest was sparked by new research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, finding that two-thirds of drug-related hospitalizations are associated with four medications: warfarin, insulin, oral anti-platelet agents, and oral hypoglycemic agents.

As HHS officials determine their next steps, NCPA is highlighting the following ways, among others, that independent community pharmacists can help:

  • Promoting better, more affordable care through safe and appropriate medication use – Pharmacists are trusted, accessible providers who help ensure patients take their medication as prescribed. Utilizing local pharmacists to boost patient adherence to their medication improves the quality of care and reduces costs.
  • Improving transitions of care through coordination of patient medication –Coordinated refill programs (such as NCPA’s Simplify My Meds) are growing in use and reflect some of the many ways that community pharmacists can help eliminate barriers to non-adherence that often trigger additional downstream medical costs, including hospitalizations.
  • Advancing patient care with health information technology and medication therapy management – Comprehensive medication therapy management (MTM) services in the community setting identify and resolve costly medication problems. Technology such as electronic health records can help better coordinate care and fully integrate pharmacists.
  • Community pharmacists play a vital role in impacting quality measures – Local pharmacists can help realize quality measures implemented in Medicare Part D, including higher risk medications.

In sum, community pharmacists are critical access points for millions of Medicare Part C and D beneficiaries and must be a leading part of any serious effort to reduce are in an ideal position to decrease adverse drug reactions and improve care.

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