As pharmacists’ role in health care continues to expand, the American Medical Association (AMA) is paying attention.
The AMA recently created an educational module about pharmacists. It explains how physicians can build collaborative relationships with pharmacists to more effectively provide patient care. The module is part of the STEPS Forward™ initiative to help physicians improve their practices.
“It’s important for physicians to integrate pharmacists onto their team,” said Hae Mi Choe, Pharm.D., one of the module’s authors and an associate dean and director of pharmacy innovations & partnerships for the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy and the University of Michigan Medical Group, respectively.
“There’s a growing need for pharmacists in managing our complex, chronically ill patients.”
Partnering with physicians
With people living longer, physicians must manage more chronic conditions. Chronic conditions come with more complicated medication regimens. And more problems with adherence, interactions and polypharmacy. “Together, physicians and pharmacists can develop protocols to optimize drug therapy to achieve clinical outcomes,” Choe said.
Physicians are also being held to increasingly higher standards of care, Choe said. And pharmacists, the experts in medication management, can help them best meet those standards.
“How you meet that need is by introducing pharmacists that can work in concert with physicians in terms of improving chronic disease management or doing comprehensive medication reviews for patients with complex medication regimens,” she said.
Bridging the gap
The first step in a physician and pharmacy partnership is bridging the communication divide between their practices.
“The link has to be how the community pharmacy fits into that model. Because currently, they operate in separate spaces,” Choe said. “And their two spaces don’t always have a good communication path, even with simple things like a patient needing a refill.”
Sharing patients’ basic health information is an effective way physicians and pharmacists can use better communication to improve patient outcomes. “Community pharmacists’ hands are tied,” Choe said. “They don’t have access to medical records. They don’t have direct access to the physicians to make recommendations or to have a dialogue about the patient.”
In the module, Choe recommends physicians suggest patients share copies of their charts with their pharmacist.
Choe recommends physicians tell patients to share:
- Medication lists
- Visit summaries
- Lists of medical conditions
- Basic labs
With more information, community pharmacists can make informed decisions to help patients manage and adhere to their medications.
But before collaborative partnerships can occur, physicians’ entrenched perspectives need to change. “The first step is for the physician community to recognize there’s a need for a pharmacist with medication expertise,” Choe said.
She said integrating pharmacists in physician practices is the most effective method to convince physicians of that need. And, she hopes the STEPS Forward module will help achieve that end.
“Once physicians experience what it’s like to work with the pharmacist, and recognize that the pharmacist is a valuable member of the care team, then it’s easier for them to branch out. And, to extend this type of relationship into the community where patients actually live, where they visit the community pharmacy more often.”
For more information on partnering with physicians, check out the module.
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