By Dr. Terry Olson, Vice President of Behavioral Solutions, PrescribeWellness

In today’s era of managed care, the emphasis is on improving patient outcomes while reducing costs. Retail pharmacies should be at the center of this trend in healthcare delivery.

In the
United States, chronic diseases account for 75% of all healthcare spending and cause 70% of all deaths, costing Americans over $1 trillion a year. In addition, an estimated 133 million Americans, or almost one out of every two adults, has at least one chronic illness (e.g., diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, mental illness, etc.), resulting in over $4 trillion in preventable healthcare spending. Many healthcare organizations and corporations are looking for ways to improve patient knowledge about prevention and treatment of chronic disease states, in the greater effort to decrease healthcare costs in America.

In response, the Affordable Care Act provisions, including STAR standards and changing reimbursement models, are focusing on preventive healthcare and finding the new “foot soldiers” in the movement toward preventive healthcare services. The retail pharmacy, with its built-in trust with consumers, is primed to fill that role. Retail pharmacists are becoming the most accessible healthcare professionals in the United States, and their numbers are growing. A 2000 estimate showed that the equivalent of the entire U.S. population (or approximately 275 million people) visits pharmacies each week, and with an aging population, that number has grown. Although pharmacies are already trained to provide services to optimize patient chronic disease services, they are not well utilized. A recent report to the U.S. Surgeon General detailed the pressing need for more pharmacists, and recommends the fully supported implementation of expanded pharmacist programs. In agreement, the 21st Century Intelligent Pharmacy Project also published a white paper, emphasizing the critical role of the pharmacist within the overall healthcare team. There is a great opportunity for pharmacy-based programs to play more important roles than ever in the national movement toward solving America’s healthcare problems.

In response to the disease management models for treating chronic conditions that center around medication management and lifestyle modification, the time is now for the retail pharmacy to directly influence patient compliance. The pharmacist is now perfectly positioned to identify, counsel, and monitor patients’ behaviors and concerns pertaining to chronic conditions, and to identify and coach patients through individual therapies. CT