Health reform is at the top of the news, and the search for value is at the heart of efforts to reform the morbidly obese American healthcare system. Pharmacists should be at the forefront of these efforts, and one of the areas where their impact could be greatest is in long-term or “post-acute” care.
The role of the pharmacist in creating value in the healthcare continuum, and especially post-acute care is clear. By designing and implementing measurable changes in transitions of care, minimizing untoward drug interactions, avoiding polypharmacy and deploying truly expert treatment reviews, pharmacists’ interactions with consumers, patients and other healthcare professionals are at the heart of improving the value equation in healthcare.
Reducing hospital readmissions is an example of where pharmacists can deliver value. Unplanned hospital readmissions cost Medicare (and the American public) $17.4 billion. Root cause analysis shows that medication related issues are responsible 50% or more of these unnecessary readmissions, yet with very few exceptions pharmacists are not playing an active role in managing transitions of care between and among hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living and home.
There is an urgent need for pharmacists to take a more active role in the post-acute, long-term care settings, and participate in structuring services to achieve sustainable programs and models which deliver value to hospitals, SNF’s and most importantly the patients and families they serve. The knowledge, skills and insights of pharmacists are central to adding value to the health care system. Reducing unnecessary hospital readmissions is an excellent example. Yet pharmacists are too often relegated to functional roles such as dispensing medicines and regulatory compliance, either in the hospital, skilled nursing center or the community pharmacy. Pharmacists need a seat at the table in order to help deliver value in this important transitional time in the American healthcare system.”
Stackpole & Associates, Inc. is a leading healthcare consulting firm. Its clients include the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP), Commission for Certification in Geriatric Pharmacy, many pharmacy services providers, and Irving Stackpole is a contributor to Senior Care Pharmacy: Resources and Tools for Building a Successful Practice, writing the sections on marketing and sales.