By John Norton
Concerns with health care spending continue to fuel the search to find better ways of delivering care. The slow, but steady health care transformation has only accelerated with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Pharmacists, who have traditionally been underutilized, are efficient and cost-effective professionals uniquely positioned to assist with the ongoing changes in the marketplace.
A recent survey demonstrates the increasing role pharmacists are playing in the health care system. This is the first of two blog posts covering this survey.
By focusing on comparing the pharmacist workforce from 2014, 2009, 2005 and 2000; the “2014 National Pharmacist Workforce Survey” provides a compelling narrative—over the past decade and a half there has been considerable progress in expanding pharmacists’ role in health care.
From the more than 5,000 pharmacists surveyed, researchers learned the following:
- From 2009 to 2014 the amount of time full-time pharmacists dedicated to patient care services associated with medication dispensing dropped from 55 percent to 49 percent, which means more time is being spent on other clinical skills and care services. Most importantly, an average of 35.3 percent of respondents in community pharmacy settings said that the “amount of time spent over the last year in patient care services not associated with medication dispensing was much more.”
- The most common services offered by pharmacists in 2014 were medication therapy management (60 percent) and immunizations (53 percent). In comparison, in 2004 a mere 13 percent offered medication therapy management and 15 percent for immunizations.
- One interesting trend is that 76 percent of pharmacists in 2014 reported working with one or more fellow pharmacists during a workday. By contrast, in 2004, 52 percent of independent, 52 percent of chain, and 61 percent of supermarket pharmacists did not work with another pharmacist in a typical workday. This is a clear indication that the workload is expanding.
Not all of the news was good. For example, over the last two years 70 percent of pharmacists felt the financial incentives had “not changed all”. In other words, the increased workload often has not been matched by recognition that these additional skills and services deserved to be compensated. Hopefully, that will change soon. For example, the push for “pharmacist as provider status” at the state and federal opens up new opportunities for better health outcomes, lower overall costs and more pharmacist participation in and reimbursement for health care services.