When a physician walks into an exam room to see a patient, his aim is to focus on all possible diagnoses. When a pharmacist approaches a patient, she has the physician’s diagnosis in hand. Based on this diagnosis, pharmacists can help determine the most appropriate medication therapies
Pharmacists focus on therapy, rather than diagnosis.
This division of work is a simple explanation for how physicians and pharmacists complement each other. It’s rooted in the curriculum of medical schools and pharmacy schools. Physicians are taught to diagnose; pharmacists are taught to treat.
During their four years of school, pharmacy students take courses in biomedical, pharmaceutical, social-administrative, and clinical sciences. They also take a collection of courses dedicated to specific therapeutic areas. This gives pharmacists a deep knowledge of prescription drugs and medication therapies. They are the medication experts.
While medical students preparing for a future as a general practitioner or specialist take courses in pharmacology, most don’t review pharmacy at the same level.
New prescription drugs are entering the market faster than ever.
If the commercials are any indication, there’s a new prescription drug to ask your doctor about every week. That’s not too far off.
- In 2014, total drug spending rose by $24.3 billion. More than half of that increase was spent on brand-name drugs on the market for less than two years.15
- In 2015, the FDA approved 45 novel drugs — products classified as new molecular entities that haven’t been approved before.16
- In 2016, a record-breaking 800 plus generics received approval to enter the market.17
The availability of new drugs and new generics often mean more treatment options and reduced drug costs. But with more than two new drugs coming out each day, it’s almost impossible to keep up with the options available.
This is another area where physicians can look to pharmacists for support. Pharmacists maintain an enormous knowledge of prescription drugs and stay informed of new therapies
Want a thorough medication reconciliation? Have a pharmacist do it.
A number of studies have compared the results of medication reconciliations conducted by pharmacists, nurses, and physicians. Pharmacists consistently identify more discrepancies and opportunities for intervention
- Pharmacists found 20 percent more discrepancies in medication histories than physicians did.18
- In an emergency department setting, pharmacists reduced medication reconciliation discrepancies by 33 percent.19
- Pharmacists identify more medications, OTCs, and supplements a patient is than nurses.20
Some of this may be due to time and environment. Much of it has to do with this: pharmacists review medications every day, and their expertise and experience makes them uniquely suited to do thorough medication reviews.
Pharmacists also go beyond a medication reconciliation or a brown bag review. In a medication therapy management session or comprehensive medication review — often covered under Medicare Part D — pharmacists incorporate motivational interviewing. This gives them a chance to gauge how well the patient understands their medications and how to take them. With this bigger picture view, pharmacists can further enhance health and wellness.