A woman concerned about a new prescription to control her blood pressure receives a thorough and compassionate explanation of how the medication works, how to take it and what side effects she should watch for.
A patient with cancer who is suffering from nausea is put on an innovative treatment plan to help him better tolerate chemotherapy.
A man who has not been regularly taking the medication prescribed to lower his cholesterol gets a friendly reminder call at his home.
These are examples of the types of care that pharmacists provide at Kaiser Permanente, and the level of care celebrated in October during American Pharmacists Month. Established by the American Pharmacists Association, the annual observation highlights pharmacists as integral members of the health care team.
“Our pharmacists give us reasons to celebrate them every day of the year because they are critical to the high-quality, affordable care we provide our members,” said Patrick Courneya, MD, executive vice president and chief medical officer at Kaiser Permanente. “The safe and effective use of medication is essential for the total health of our members. Our physicians and pharmacists work hand in hand in our integrated system to make sure that we are optimizing medication use to save and improve lives.”
Frequent member touchpoint
Kaiser Permanente members receive care from approximately 5,000 pharmacists serving in a variety of settings, including hospitals, outpatient pharmacies, clinics, infusion centers, call centers, and central prescription filling facilities. Kaiser Permanente processes more than 72 million outpatient prescriptions per year, along with 38 million doses of medication administered in hospitals and 10 million doses in clinics.
All of that activity results in approximately 138,000 member interactions every day, making pharmacy one of the services with the most frequent member encounters across the Kaiser Permanente health organization.
“Our pharmacists and staff often serve as a primary point of contact for members throughout the care delivery process,” said W. Perry Flowers, MS, RPh, vice president, Acute and Transitional Care, Kaiser Permanente National Pharmacy. “Whether a patient undergoes a major medical procedure or receives treatment for a chronic condition, getting the right medication, at the right time, and in the right dose can make all the difference in the outcome. Just as importantly, a pharmacist can help patients understand why they are taking a particular medication, and make sure that it doesn’t interact negatively with other medications they may be taking.”
An expanding role
The pharmacist’s role in health care has expanded in the past two decades due to a combination of factors, including the increasing complexity of many new drug therapies and rising drug costs. Kaiser Permanente is well-positioned to take advantage of all aspects of a pharmacist’s expertise in meeting the health needs of patients.
“Our technology and protocols allow physicians and pharmacists to collaborate for highly coordinated care to ensure that our members get the most benefit from their prescribed drug therapies,” said Joe Douglas, RPh, vice president, Outpatient Services, Kaiser Permanente National Pharmacy. “Our pharmacists can connect with their patients and other care providers in a way that’s only possibly in a truly integrated system like ours. With our electronic health record, they have access to a patient’s entire health history, and can view prescription lists, allergies, and diagnosed conditions.”
Advancements for members and the profession
To make sure that members get the most value from the latest pharmaceutical advancements, Kaiser Permanente pharmacists evaluate new drugs for effectiveness and safety. Pharmacists also partner with physicians and other experts in the organization to use the economy of scale in efforts to keep drugs affordable for members and conduct groundbreaking research on new drug therapies and treatment innovations.
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 firsthand the total health they can help provide patients in an integrated system.
For more information about American Pharmacists Month and the evolving role of pharmacists in health care, click here.