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Feature Story

The Expanding Role of Pharmacists in Patient Care

October 26, 2017



photo of four female pharmacists Kathy Brown, left, Kaiser Permanente Northern California regional vice president of pharmacy, and Amy Gutierrez, right, vice president and chief pharmacy officer, join clinical pharmacists Kelly Mullican and Golby Jalabi at a patient event in Washington, D.C.

The scope of pharmacy practice is expanding in all care settings. This is especially true at Kaiser Permanente, because in the organization’s integrated care model, pharmacists work closely with physicians, nurses and other care providers to optimize the effectiveness of medications and promote the total health of patients and members.

Kaiser Permanente members receive care from approximately 5,000 pharmacists nationwide serving in a variety of settings, including hospitals, outpatient pharmacies, clinics, infusion centers, call centers, central prescription filling facilities — even through virtual visits.

From tracking medication adherence for patients with chronic conditions to making sure that patients discharged from the hospital are transitioned with the right medication plan, pharmacists are often the voice and face of Kaiser Permanente.

With Kaiser Permanente’s electronic health record and other networked technologies, pharmacists and other care providers have access to a patient’s entire health history, prescription lists, allergies and diagnosed conditions, all of which are used to maximize opportunities to ensure that patients are taking the right medication, at the right time, and at the right dose.

Pharmacists leverage technology to monitor for problematic medication interactions and dosing that appears to be outside of recommended ranges. They also lead a variety of programs designed to improve medication safety, from identifying drugs that are high risk for the elderly to ensuring the safe and appropriate use of opioids.

“With the increasing complexity of many new drug therapies, coordination of care is more important than ever,” said Amy Gutierrez, vice president and chief pharmacy officer, Kaiser Permanente. “The more patients interact with their pharmacists and the more pharmacists are connected with other care providers in an integrated system, the more medication effectiveness, quality and safety are enhanced.”

Advancing the profession

Kaiser Permanente is recognized as a national pharmacy leader. Earlier this year — for the seventh year in a row — the organization earned the Pharmacy Quality Alliance’s Excellence in Quality Award for high achievement in medication safety and appropriate use.

Pharmacists at Kaiser Permanente conduct ground-breaking research on new drug therapies and treatment innovations, contributing to hundreds of published studies each year that advance patient care as well as the pharmacy profession as a whole.

Kaiser Permanente also contributes to the pharmacy profession with its Pharmacy Residency Programs, which provide new pharmacy graduates invaluable experience in a variety of care settings. Many of these new pharmacists choose to begin their careers with Kaiser Permanente because they experience first-hand the ability to provide total health support to patients in an integrated system.

Learn more about American Pharmacists Month and the evolving role of pharmacists.