Pharmacist–physician collaboration improves quality and patient care

Physicians at packed APhA2018 session describe their success working with pharmacists


Physicians spoke about the need for teamwork with pharmacists before a packed room at APhA2018 in Nashville on Saturday, March 17. At a session co-sponsored by AMGA, “Meaningful Collaboration between Pharmacists and Physicians to Improve Quality and Meet Patient Needs,” physicians from three disparate health organizations discussed the success they’ve had working with pharmacists and provided pointers for pharmacists who wish to become involved in collaborative care teams.

APhA CEO Tom Menighan, BSPharm, MBA, ScD, opened the session with words of partnership. “Our top priority is to advance pharmacists’ patient care services using a collaborative approach. AMGA is a valued partner of ours. We have a lot in common in terms of how we see the world.”

Rae Ann Williams, MD, FACP, regional medical director of primary care at HealthPartners, Inc., described how successful clinical partnerships with pharmacists have improved outcomes related to diabetes and hypertension. Williams also discussed how pharmacists are assisting with opioid management by assessing past prescribing using the PDMP, providing education at dispensing, and providing opioid tapering services. New prescriptions for opioids dropped in a year’s time once pharmacists took active roles on the care team.

Williams advised pharmacists to look at outcomes and identify where they can best use their skills and training on teams with physicians. “Identify the pain points. Where are the physicians struggling? Appeal to your common goals.”

In his presentation, Chan Chuang, MD, FCCP, FACP, chief clinical officer of DaVita Medical Group, spoke of the value pharmacists bring to a care team, noting how they reduce the administrative burdens physicians face with prescription refills. Chuang also described how pharmacists can help improve medication adherence, thus raising Medicare Star ratings, and how pharmacist-provided MTM at discharge can reduce readmission rates.

Chuang encouraged pharmacists to tap into their skills at developing protocols, noting that physicians appreciate such efforts. “As much as you can protocolize, physicians will be happier and you will get better outcomes.”

Jamie Reedy, MD, MPH, chief of population health at Summit Medical Group, discussed the vital role pharmacists have in medication adherence best practices. She noted the importance of cost and patient access to medication, citing how pharmacist intervention at Summit was instrumental in improving quality metrics for diabetes and hypertension, medication reconciliation and adherence, and use of generics medications.

Reedy’s advice to pharmacists is to speak up about their skills, especially to older physicians. “Convince physicians that pharmacists are needed by making a case for your services. Younger physicians are trained in interdisciplinary care, but the older ones were not. You have to sell it.”

John Kennedy, MD, AMGA chief medical officer and AMGA Foundation president, moderated the session and led a lively discussion where panelists provided tips for pharmacists on how to best approach physicians and medical administrators. He also offered insights into making the business case for pharmacist integration into collaborative care models. AMGA, formerly the American Medical Group Association, represents multispecialty medical groups and integrated systems of care.