Most often, patients think of their family doctor or nurse as their healthcare team. If they have chronic conditions such as diabetes Type 1 or 2, then specialists and surgeons might also fit in that category. Very rarely, however, does a patient think of their local pharmacist and pharmacy technician as part of that team. The pharmacy profession has evolved through the years. We now see pharmacists taking on health management roles.
Under health management programs, a team of healthcare professionals identifies patients who are either at risk of developing or are currently suffering from a specific disease. For example, among the Latino race, diabetes is high. And among African-Americans, hypertension has become a major concern.
Pharmacists develop and implement strategies for the patients and their “team” on specific ways to prevent, manage and treat the disease. A good example of this would be reminding patients when it’s time to get their flu shots or demonstrating to a patient how to check their blood glucose other preventative measures.
Many pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreen’s offer “Minute Clinics” that offer health screening (i.e. Cholesterol, Diabetes, Flu Shots, etc.) One of the pharmacist’s most important roles is the referral of patients to other members of the care team. Perhaps the patient may be referred to a registered dietician because as a diabetic, eating well and staying active plays an important role in the healthcare of the patient. Implementing diabetes management services requires a commitment of time, effort, and resources on both the pharmacist and pharmacy technician.
Suppose a group of patients with diabetes has been identified. The pharmacist can help them by providing medication management and review, providing educational programs, and regularly monitoring self-tested blood glucose levels. Pharmacy technician can assist by helping these patients locate home blood glucose monitoring equipment, providing information about where to find low-sugar OTC products in the store, and where to find the diabetic skin care products.
The pharmacist can play an important role in diabetes care by screening patients at high risk for diabetes, assessing patient health status and adherence to standards of care, educating patients to empower them to care for themselves, referring patients to other health care professionals as appropriate, and monitoring the patient’s outcomes. The involvement of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in diabetes management will reduce overall costs of care.