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Dr Marie Sartain
/ Categories: APhA News

AHA wants to engage pharmacists in AFib care

A new initiative from the American Heart Association (AHA) aims to educate and engage pharmacists in caring for patients with AFib.

“Atrial fibrillation is a complex disease state that can prove scary for patients and their families,” said Cody Parsons, PharmD, manager of clinical operations for Stanford Health Care's cardiovascular health service line. “Pharmacists are able to provide the support necessary to ensure accurate and safe prescribing of anticoagulants while focusing on the patient to ensure a sound understanding and comfort with their medications and disease states.”

However, he noted that funding and empowering pharmacists to provide this support is essential to elevating the care that AFib patients receive.

The AHA initiative, which will be conducted through June 2025, is the next phase in the association's Four Fs of Atrial Fibrillation program focused on patient health concerns that affect use of guideline-directed anticoagulant therapy: fear of falling; fear of bleeding; forgetfulness, or cognitive dysfunction; and frailty.

“Atrial fibrillation can appear in numerous patient populations leading to multiple specialties, inpatient services, and clinics caring for this particular disease state. Despite a growth in pharmacist support in both inpatient and ambulatory settings over the years, many areas with less acute or complex patients still struggle to obtain significant pharmacist support. This can also hold true for patients receiving care outside of a population center,” Parsons said.

He added that the issue is compounded by the lack of pharmacist provider status on a federal level, which could assist in expanding much needed pharmacist support for this.

Over 6 million Americans are affected by AFib, according to AHA.

Pharmacists can make contributions in the continuum of care for patients with AFib in all practice settings.

In ambulatory care, pharmacists are able to support chronic disease state management. This can occur through various avenues including shared and independent visits with AFib patients.

“Some of the earliest forms of support were anticoagulation clinics set up to provide narrow therapeutic monitoring of warfarin,” said Parsons. “Ambulatory pharmacists serve as exemplary educational support to the ambulatory team and the patient, family members, and caregivers. They assist in ensuring patients have uninterrupted access to their medications.”

In the health system setting, pharmacists partner with health care teams in evaluating the medical complexity of patients and how to most effectively use multiple medications. “This includes participation in multidisciplinary rounds, order evaluation and verification, education, and transitions of care services,” said Parsons. “The transitions of care and education role can be particularly important in relation to anticoagulation in AFib patients. In this role, pharmacists serve as expert support to not only the medical team but to the patient, family members, and caregivers both answering questions and providing medication and disease state support.”

Even in the community setting, pharmacists have a role in AFrib care.

“Pharmacists again serve as medication and chronic disease state experts to address any questions, concerns, or medication related issues,” Parsons said. “They ensure patients get and maintain access to their vital medications in partnership with prescribing providers. As the provider shortage expands, pharmacists are uniquely positioned and qualified to help support these and other patients.”

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