Each year in the United States, there are approximately 1.5 million preventable adverse drug events. That's one medication error per patient per day in hospitals throughout the country. Pharmacists are on the front line to reduce and prevent these errors and to help ensure our patients receive safe and effective medication therapy.
What pharmacists do. Pharmacists manage every aspect of the medication use process, from ensuring the acquisition and delivery of safe and effective medications, to collaborating with physicians on medication selection, to educating patients about their medications. While pharmacists have long been recognized as medication experts, only within the past 30 years have pharmacists stepped out from behind the counter and developed relationships with patients and other members of the healthcare team.
This concept, known as "pharmaceutical care," has spread to all patient care settings, and many physicians have come to rely on the expertise of clinical pharmacists to help in the selection of medications for their patients and to ensure those medications are working in the right way.
The value of pharmaceutical care in the healthcare delivery system is evident. A collaborative relationship between pharmacists, patients, and physicians has been shown to improve clinical and economic outcomes. Leveraging their specialized knowledge and skills, pharmacists are now empowered to review medication profiles, educate patients, and collaborate with other healthcare clinicians to design and monitor optimal medication therapy regimens.
What Intermountain is doing. In both the inpatient and outpatient settings, Intermountain Healthcare employs more than 200 pharmacists who play a vital role in helping patients benefit from their medications. Here are some examples of how our pharmacists are providing exceptional care to our patients:
- Evaluation of every medication order and prescription. Pharmacists in our hospital, homecare, and community pharmacies evaluate drug interactions, potential side effects, dosing, and cost to ensure patients receive the most appropriate medication regimens.
- Pharmacist-provided anticoagulation services. Medications used to prevent blood clots can be very difficult to manage. Utilizing their skills and expertise, pharmacists manage these medications and all necessary laboratory tests so that the physicians can spend their time focusing on other patient needs.
- Patient assistance programs. Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians work closely with patients' insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies to ensure patients receive the medication they need, even if they are unable to afford it.
- Patient education. Patients often turn to pharmacists for advice on over-the-counter medications, nutritional supplements, chronic disease management, and preventive medicine, in addition to prescription medications. Pharmacists have a broad knowledge base in these areas and are there to help patients make informed choices regarding their health.
- Adverse medication event surveillance. Pharmacists evaluate every medication-related adverse event in Intermountain's system to identify trends and explore ways to prevent similar problems in the future.
How can patients benefit?
By getting to know their pharmacists! Strong relationships are the foundation upon which these frequently lifesaving services are provided. There have been many advances in pharmaceutical technology, and medication therapy is allowing our patients to live longer, fuller lives. However, medications are very powerful, and when used inappropriately, they can have life-threatening consequences. Making certain the communication lines are open between patients and their pharmacists is the best way to assure medicines are working as intended.