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The Truven Health Blog


The latest healthcare topics from a trusted, proven, and unbiased source.


The Expanding Role of Pharmacists: Out of the Basement and Into the Spotlight


By Tina Moen/Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Tina Moen imageWhat does it mean to be a pharmacist in 2014? I recently presented at the Health Connect Partners Spring Pharmacy Conference to a room full of pharmacy leaders from across the country. We discussed the evolution of the practice of pharmacy, the things we have seen change over the years, and the opportunities (and challenges) we see on the horizon. Throughout the conference, many attendees shared stories of how their responsibilities as a pharmacist have evolved throughout their careers. Our conclusion is that now – more than ever – there are visible, meaningful changes to our role as it relates to patient care, collaboration with our peers, and in leadership participation in the healthcare community.

Clinical pharmacy services, as we know it, are a result of continuous evolution of the historical pharmacy role – namely dispensing medications from behind the counter or in the basement. This evolution has taken many years. Pharmacists now deliver enhanced value to their organizations and their patients with a focus on quality, safety, and efficacy of medication therapies. Programs such as enhanced Medication Therapy Management continue to highlight the impact pharmacists can make on reducing adverse effects and improving efficacy of a patient’s medication regimen. Additionally, pharmacists contributing to Medication Reconciliation and specialty services, like Anticoagulation or Diabetes Clinics, continue to demonstrate that rounding out the care team to include a medication specialist improves patient outcomes and enhances the practice and performance of clinical peers. And recently, I have seen emerging cross-functional leadership teams working toward goals such as the IHI “Triple AIM,” begin to include Pharmacy; tying personal goals and incentives for DOPs to these efficiency and quality objectives.

Clearly, great progress has been made in the practice of pharmacy, and I for one am proud of the role pharmacists play in enhancing the patient experience and outcomes. So, what's next? Here are the things that come to mind when I ask myself this question.

Healthcare IT
A recent article in Healthcare IT News advocated for pharmacists playing a larger role in EHR strategy. As a pharmacist who works within the healthcare IT industry, I couldn’t agree more. What percentage of patients in a hospital has at least ONE medication order? I would venture to say “most.” It’s an obvious conclusion that the profession charged with the safe and effective use of medications should have a significant role in the development, selection, and implementation of tools used to properly care for those patients. And then there is Meaningful Use. How many of the Meaningful Use Objectives are related to medications and the services in which pharmacists participate? Who better then to take the lead in organizational efforts for Stage II attestation and Stage III planning?

Care Collaboration
Cross-departmental coordination for initiatives that span hospital leadership continues to grow in scope and importance. Benefits of pharmacists as integral members of rounding teams within the inpatient setting are well-documented. With organizations designing and implementing Population Health and ACO strategies, pharmacy leaders can capitalize on the combination of data analytics and clinical insight that are the hallmarks of pharmacy practice. As Population Health initiatives evolve – who better than a pharmacist to guide trends in medication recommendations in treating high-risk conditions and ensuring safe, cost-conscious practice remains top of mind?

Quality Patient Care
Providing quality patient care has always been a focus of healthcare providers. Today’s environment adds a variety of incentives and penalties to drive quality. How are pharmacists contributing? In many ways! Pharmacists are well-suited to lead the charge on initiatives like Antimicrobial Stewardship, a quality and a cost management initiative. The importance of medication education and adherence in the improvement of HCAHPS scores and the reduction of readmissions are additional examples how pharmacists can and should use their skills as medication specialists to drive improved patient care. Because results summaries from nation-wide HCAHPS surveys indicate that Medication Safety and Pain Management questions are still amongst the lowest performing areas – shouldn’t pharmacists’ input at the patient care level be paramount?

As I said during my visit to Health Connect Partners, it’s good to look back occasionally to see the progress that has been made and to help motivate us for the challenges and opportunities ahead of us. What is next? What have I missed? I would love to hear from my fellow pharmacists on where the practice of pharmacy will be in the next 10 years. What are you doing today to move the needle in the evolution of pharmacy?

Tina Moen, PharmD
Chief Clinical Officer

How Hospital Pharmacy Can Integrate Technology to Impact HCAHPS Scores


By Tina Moen/Friday, September 27, 2013
Tina Moen imageQuality care and finance. The balance of these essential elements holds the key to the future of how we provide healthcare. Multidisciplinary care is more important than ever in caring for patients, and looking at the whole picture is the best way to care for the whole patient. The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) agrees. How your hospital scores on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey is becoming increasingly important, especially since under the CMS Value Based Purchasing (VBP) program,
reimbursements are partially based on those scores.

How can pharmacists use their expertise to impact patient satisfaction and boost HCAHPS scores?

HCAHPS wants to know, if during the hospital stay, did the patient receive new medication? If so, how often did staff tell the patient what the medicine was for, and did staff describe possible side effects in simplified terms?

Pharmacists can directly impact these questions by combining clinical expertise with technology. We can make every reasonable effort to:
  • Explain to our patients why they are taking new medications – when prescribed, at first dose, and at discharge.
  • Use clear wording to help patients understand why they are taking a medication and what they can possibly expect as a result.
  • Give them patient-specific medication handouts and discharge instructions.
  • Make ourselves available to patients and to staff, to answer medication related questions.
And with technology, we can ensure we are educating our patients by scaling our efforts and making our available manpower more efficient. One of our clients, Arkansas Methodist Medical Center, is using Micromedex® Pharmacy Intervention to set alerts to remind their clinical pharmacists which patients are on new medications, develop protocols with simplified terminology for all pharmacists to follow uniformly, and then track their progress. View the video to see how they are making this work for them.

As pharmacists, we can also leverage Micromedex clinical decision support, embedded within the Pharmacy Intervention solution, or accessible via the 2.0 platform, to access the talking points within the Clinical Teaching section. Clinical Teaching highlights the most pertinent medication information and serves to inform clinicians on what patients need to know about medication use, safety, and side effects.

Lastly, we can use Micromedex Patient Education, as a standalone or embedded in the hospital EHR, to provide high-quality, evidence-based, consistent education to our patients. Health education resources are written in simple to understand language, an active voice, and at a 5th to 7th grade reading level. Patient-specific handouts and discharge instructions can be printed, and also made available to your patients via a patient portal and email.

Using Micromedex Solutions, we can compare internal benchmarks, which can be captured and quantified, to customize how pharmacy can improve care for patients. With these trusted solutions, we can make sure that the pharmacist and patient have all of the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions while aligning directly with HCAHPS standards. Well-honed tools help us adapt to the dynamic nature of the practice of pharmacy and no doubt solidify a blueprint for future regulatory and value based reimbursement programs.

Tina Moen, PharmD
Chief Clinical Officer

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