How pharmacists can use advanced medication decision support to improve health and reduce costs

As the role of pharmacists in the health of communities continues to grow, it becomes even more essential for pharmacists to be armed with state-of-the-art technology when analyzing medications.

The role that pharmacies play in their communities has grown steadily in recent years, a trend that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated. Importantly, this growth is helping to encourage some states to expand the role of pharmacists for the application of their clinical expertise, fueling an active dialogue within the healthcare community.1

Several states have passed laws that greatly expand the scope of practice for pharmacists, from the services they provide to reimbursement. The key reality is that pharmacists are experts in drug therapy, and this expertise enables them to provide unique support and value to patients. Pharmacists are well positioned for greater involvement in patient care.

Technology also plays an important role today, as drug decision support tools must advance to transcend traditional one-to-one drug analysis and incorporate the simultaneous analysis of multiple drugs. Multi-drug analysis is rooted in pharmaceutical science, including pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, which can complement pharmacists’ expertise and help them identify potential multi-drug interactions, with a better understanding of actionable insights to avoid these interactions.

Research published in the American Journal of Managed Care highlights the value of using advanced medication decision support tools.2 In this article, pharmacists provided retrospective drug safety reviews to a group of participants using these tools. The group that participated in drug safety reviews had better outcomes than the group that did not receive drug safety reviews, including a reduction in adverse drug events, visits to emergencies, hospital admissions and medical expenses. For example, the group that did not participate in the examinations experienced a larger increase (16.0% vs. 8.5%) year-over-year in average total medical costs per member (costs Medicare Part A and Part B).

Medical costs are also highlighted in our peer-reviewed article published in Health carewhich emphasizes structured drug risk mitigation services and the Comprehensive Care for the Elderly (PACE) program.3 Prospective drug safety reviews and pharmacogenomic evaluations provided by pharmacists that have been discussed in the research are available to PACE organizations that use providers to deliver modern structured drug risk mitigation services.

The study measured medical costs (facility and physician costs) and found that participants who received both a prospective structured medication review and comprehensive PACE pharmacy services spent $5,000 less in avoidable medical costs than the control group of patients.

As the role and recognition of pharmacists continues to grow, it becomes even more critical for pharmacists to be armed with state-of-the-art technology that provides simultaneous multi-drug testing. This leads to better and more efficient care for patients and maximizes the opportunities presented by expanded scope of practice and compensation. Using these tools to provide drug safety reviews provides pharmacists with the essential drug information they need to apply their knowledge and expertise to improve the health of more patients and reduce medical costs, thereby advancing the pharmacy profession.

About the Author

Mindy Smith, BSPharm, RPh, MHA, CMWAis Senior Vice President, Government and Professional Affairs at Tabula Rasa HealthCare.

REFERENCES

  1. Andrews M. Despite concerns from doctors, pharmacists have more leeway to offer treatment with tests. Kaiser Health News. Published March 31, 2022. Accessed April 26, 2022. https://khn.org/news/article/pharmacists-test-and-treat-doctors-opposition
  2. Stein A, Finnel S, Bankes D, et al. Health outcomes of an innovative model of improved drug therapy management. Am J Manager Care. 2021;27(supplement 16):S300-S308. doi:10.37765/ajmc.2021.88755
  3. Jin H, Yang S, Bankes D, Finnel S, Turgeon J, Stein A. Evaluating the impact of medication risk mitigation services in medically complex older adults. Health care. 2022;10(3):551. doi:10.3390/healthcare10030551

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