Female pharmacist on the phone taking notes with medications on shelves behind her.Pharmacies are often seen as the last stop on the healthcare journey of an individual. Most patients visit a doctor’s office or hospital, get a diagnosis, and leave with a prescription in order to manage their symptoms.

In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control, 71.9 percent of all physician office visits involve the use of drug therapy in some form. The majority of hospitalized individuals also leave with a new prescription.

However, viewing a prescription as the end of treatment is a mistake. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that between 19 and 23 percent of people discharged from the hospital experienced adverse drug events, many of them preventable. Side effects, allergic reactions, overdosing, drug interactions and mistakes during the prescribing, dispensing, or administration of a medication can all lead to issues ranging from mild to life-threatening.

Prescription medications require education, monitoring, and medication therapy management to ensure the well-being of the individual. Because of this, the role of pharmacists in healthcare is expanding. As pharmacists become more involved in direct patient care, they will play an even greater role in improving outcomes and reducing healthcare costs.

It Takes a Village

All stakeholders in medical care delivery must work together to ensure the best clinical results along with good quality of life for the individual.

  • Individuals: The primary stakeholders are always the individuals, who rely on medical professionals to provide them with medications and medication management services. Each person has a vested interest in high-quality, affordable services.
  • Payers: Insurance companies, government agencies, and self-insured employers all contribute to treatment for people. Payers have a vested interest in ensuring that services are both cost-effective and meet the needs of their members.
  • Providers: Physicians, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals have a vested interest in ensuring that pharmacies provide high-quality, coordinated care for individuals once they leave the office, clinic or hospital.
  • Community: Community resources including those that provide housing, food, transportation, and social work to those in need play a critical role in helping individuals reach their health goals. These services help people to live independently and participate fully in their communities.
  • Pharmaceutical Companies: Pharmaceutical companies invest billions of dollars in research and development to create new medications that can treat a variety of diseases. Pharmaceutical brands have a vested interest in the safety and efficacy of their medications, along with their availability to the healthcare industry. Ultimately, pharmaceutical companies are essential for the development and availability of new medications, and they provide educational resources and support for people and healthcare professionals.

When all stakeholders work together, people receive an improved healthcare experience, develop more trust in providers, and save money. All of these stakeholders can play a role in improving healthcare delivery and making healthcare better for everyone.

Challenges to Stakeholder Collaboration

While collaborative care sounds amazing in theory, in reality, challenges often prevent care teams from working together across different stakeholder groups.

To begin with, healthcare in general and behavioral health in particular are understaffed industries where workforce shortages are increasing. Adding levels of service to any one area can cause undue stress and frustration.

Additionally, each organization within the stakeholder community has different needs, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach for coordinating care. Service providers need to meet practitioners where they are in terms of supporting people. For example, some offices provide remote telehealth appointments while others do not. Some are using e-prescribing while others prefer a traditional faxing or hand-written prescriptions. Each practice has diverse populations with a unique set of circumstances that require various approaches. Pharmacies and vendors have to take the time to determine how they can help.

Perhaps the biggest challenge to a collaborative care model is efficient communication. Even with cutting-edge technology, if stakeholders are not reaching out and sharing information, people may not receive the proper care.

Even with these challenges, the potential benefits to a coordinated care model are significant, and the effort is worth it.

Success in Care Team Cooperation–Two Examples

As an independent pharmacy, Altruix has the opportunity to partner with healthcare stakeholders across the continuum of care and give individuals an exceptional pharmacy experience. Here we will highlight two concrete examples of working with other stakeholders to improve outcomes, save time, and avoid gaps in care.

1. Behavioral Health Hospital Meds to Beds Program

Recently in partnership with Altruix, a Behavioral Health Hospital employed a program that allowed our independent pharmacy earlier access to people who needed medication.

As people are prepared for discharge, the pharmacy team is alerted ahead of time which medications are needed, and those prescriptions are delivered directly to the individual before they leave the hospital. This system not only ensures that they have the correct medications and the education they or their caregivers need, it alerts us to the person and their long-term needs.

The result is an indisputable improvement in patient care. Armed with more information at an earlier point in the care journey, we can follow up with refills or appointment assistance as needed. Instead of waiting for information to be sent to us, we are able to proactively ensure that people don’t fall through the cracks.

2. Shared Electronic Health Records

A large mental health provider in the area contracted Altruix to provide long-acting injectable antipsychotics. In an act of collaboration, we were allowed access to the electronic health records of the individuals we serve.

This gives us real-time information to assist in rescheduling injection appointments, monitor for potential adverse drug interactions and identify areas where people may be struggling to adhere to their treatment plan.

The result is a gift that every provider needs––time. Instead of spending hours doing paperwork, sending emails, faxes or making phone calls to coordinate care, we work seamlessly behind the scenes with accurate, up-to-date information. The time that those delivering care get back can then be channeled into focusing on people.

The Way Forward

Together, stakeholders can find ways through the challenges of working together. It starts with open and honest communication. Providers, the discharging facility, pharmacists, and every member of the care team should share as much information as possible in a timely manner.

Second, it is time for pharmacists to be brought into the equation as equal partners. Pharmacies can do more than dispense medication. With the clinical knowledge required to fill in gaps in care and services, the pharmacist role can and should be expanded to include following people through transitions and keeping all healthcare partners on the same page with current medication and the level of care required.

Every stakeholder in a person’s healthcare plan are partners, care coordinators, and a huge part of the care team. When we all work together, each individual can enjoy a journey that feels more like a smooth round-trip instead of a train that stops at the pharmacy pickup window.

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