Putting Pharmacists at the Center of Care Coordination

Brenda Cheung - SVP, Clinical Innovation

Beyond the Counter 2

Pharmacists have long been considered some of the most accessible and trusted medical professionals – a ‘front door’ for patient access. However, the current retail-oriented pharmacy model provides pharmacists with little time for patient engagement, since their primary performance metrics are focused on the number of processed scripts. One survey of pharmacists found that only 10% of their day is typically spent engaging with patients (1).

As pharmacists, we all want to use our knowledge to help patients to get healthier. We shouldn’t have to choose between spending time with patients in need and minimizing wait times for others.

The pharmacist-patient engagement model is ripe for change.

The average patient visits the pharmacy 12 times a year (2). Medications are patients’ most frequent engagement point with the healthcare system.

The mismatch is clear – why are pharmacists spending so little time engaging with patients when they are so close to the patient’s primary touchpoint with the healthcare system?

Pharmacists can and should be at the center of care coordination efforts.

Not only do they play a key role in patients’ most frequent touchpoint with the healthcare system; they are also uniquely positioned to have a comprehensive view of the many medications (prescribed, OTC, and dietary supplements) and therefore conditions a patient may be navigating. It is long overdue for pharmacists to shift some of their time away from fulfilling medications to supporting clinical navigation. We’ve seen small steps toward this in the form of medication therapy management (“MTM”), but there is opportunity for a more transformative shift in the model.

The good news for pharmacists and their patients is that the right clinical intervention approach and purpose-built technology can empower pharmacists to make this shift. Data analytics can help identify patients that need hands-on support and others who may benefit from preventative engagement. Virtual health engagement, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has also enabled more flexible engagement models, allowing pharmacists to meet patients where they are.

What does this application of technology and analytics look like in practice? Clinical, claims-based rules engines that go beyond basic (even antiquated) utilization management practices can prompt pharmacists or pharmacist-led teams to reach out proactively to patients for cost and outcomes-based interventions.

For example, if patient “Jill” is prescribed Humira, and a claims rules engine alerts pharmacist “Harriet” to this high-complexity treatment, Harriet can reach out to Jill to ensure she understands how to properly self-administer and what to expect from the treatment. Harriet reviews Jill’s other medications to ensure her overall treatment approach is appropriate and there are no potentially harmful interactions. Once Harriet has engaged with Jill and built rapport, she continues to monitor Jill’s treatment response. If Jill experiences side effects or lack of efficacy with her Humira, which can occur in some patients, then Harriet can reach out to Jill’s prescriber on her behalf. This clinician-to-clinician outreach is critical for evaluating and executing treatment changes and could take much longer without Harriet’s proactive support.

Both Jill and Harriet benefit from the increased leverage that technology can provide to pharmacists. Harriet is able to practice at the top of her license, directly engaging with Jill and serving as a key player on the care team. Jill has access to the support she needs on an ongoing basis.

With the right technology-powered engagement models, the future will see pharmacists continue to improve patient outcomes and contain costs, and when that happens, everyone wins.


1) https://www.drugtopics.com/view/pharmacists-want-more-time-patients

2) https://www.fdsrx.com/expanding-role-community-pharmacists/