When you think of a patient’s healthcare team, you likely think about their doctor, nurses, and specialists. While these are certainly essential members of the healthcare system, there is one type of healthcare provider that seems to be particularly unrecognized: Better yet, your pharmacist is conveniently available when you need them and typically within 5 miles of your home. In this article, we’re going to explore pharmacists’ contributions to primary care and why they deserve more recognition.
What is the role of a pharmacist?
With about 66 percent of all U.S. adults using prescription drugs and approximately 88,000 pharmacies in the U.S. (22,000 of which are independent), pharmacists play a bigger role in patient health than one might think.
Pharmacists are also extensively trained to provide basic healthcare services, such as providing blood pressure screenings or educating patients with diabetes on the effective use of glucometers. Additionally, pharmacists are very valuable when it comes to recommending over-the-counter remedies for common ailments, saving people the cost and time of going to a doctor’s office.
Pharmacists are best known for dispensing medications, but their impact expands far beyond putting medication in pill bottles. Pharmacists are involved with all parts of the medication use process. They oversee medications from numerous prescribers that a patient may have, suggest methods for accurately and effectively taking prescribed medications, discuss medication safety, identify and manage side effects, and communicate relevant issues to physicians and other team members. Additionally, they serve as care managers to help facilitate services to help the local healthcare team with things like annual wellness visits, diabetes education, remote patient monitoring and transitional care management to allow for a soft landing into the home after a hospital discharge.
The benefits of independent pharmacies
An independent pharmacy is a retail pharmacy that’s not directly affiliated with any chain of pharmacies and is not owned or operated by a publicly traded company. One of the most noticeable benefits of choosing an independent pharmacy is the personal care you receive. They’re often smaller, storefront locations with shorter wait times—an atmosphere that encourages patient-pharmacist relationships. This allows for better trust and effective communication that isn't disrupted and located next to the garden hoses of a big box pharmacy.
While all pharmacists are dedicated to helping their patients, independent pharmacists tend to have more time and resources to assist their customers. This opens the door to more opportunities for education, answering patients’ questions, and forming a genuine connection. These benefits tend to lead to better medication adherence and, consequently, better patient health outcomes.
What’s on the horizon
The role of the pharmacist in primary care has been transforming and expanding in recent years. For example, in many states, pharmacists can become certified to provide injections, such as vaccines. In 2012, the number of vaccines administered by pharmacists expanded from just the flu shot to include ten adult vaccines for illnesses such as shingles, hepatitis A and B, and meningitis. Today, that has evolved into pharmacists providing COVID vaccinations, monoclonal antibody treatments, and a multitude of point-of-care testing.
Additionally, in many states, pharmacists can prescribe routine medication such as smoking cessation agents and oral contraception, as well as provide common diagnostic tools, such as rapid tests. Pharmacists are likely to further expand their roles as the need for accessible and affordable healthcare continues to grow.
At IndyCare urgent care, we partner with an independent pharmacy called Hillsborough Pharmacy. This allows us to transform their traditional brick-and-mortar pharmacy into a community healthcare solution shop where together we can resolve lots of localized health problems. When you purchase a yearly IndyPass medical membership, you’ll receive flat-rate pricing of $10 or $15 for the most common prescriptions used for urgent care visits.
If you’re in need a one-stop-shop for any of your healthcare needs in Hillsborough, NC, feel free to schedule an appointment or just walk in. We look forward to serving you!