Pharmacists can help transform medicine

Eighty percent. This is a frightening percentage that shows how many districts in the United States are considered medical deserts.

This was an unacceptable problem even before the COVID-19 pandemic. And now the glaring truth is revealed as the world tackles the global public health crisis – a time when people need more access to health care and a better understanding of it.

Healing deserts exist in both rural and urban areas. It’s not uncommon for communities of color also face a shortage of medical resources. And the same underserved areas are also disproportionate destruction and loss due to the pandemic.

It’s time to retell this story.

In the midst of the crisis in the medical desert, there may be an opportunity – certainly there is a duty – to redefine the concept of a health desert. Pharmacists can use expansion of telemedicine, their patient care skills and strong community ties to fill some of the access gaps.

Where so-called “traditional” healthcare facilities do not exist, pharmacists use telemedicine to help patients connect with their doctors to answer questions, solve problems, and set healthcare goals. Using digital tools such as tablets and smartphones, they sometimes “accompany” patients to telemedicine appointments, which can be done remotely or in person if the pharmacy has a telemedicine center.

Some rural areas have introduced telemedicine models to provide remote pharmacies where there were no pharmacies.

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V North DakotaPharmacy technicians prepare prescriptions and obtain approvals from pharmacists via videoconferencing for dispensing drugs (patients first receive advice from a pharmacist and also via videoconferencing). Nebraska Rural hospitals are using remote pharmacists to view electronic health records to check prescriptions and review patients’ medical histories before hospital staff issue prescriptions.

V TelePrEP program provides another model that expands access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medicines for people at risk of HIV who live in rural Iowa. Patients use a smartphone app or video technology to meet with pharmacists who advise patients and prescribe PrEP regimens. Pharmacists also conduct follow-up telemedicine calls with patients to monitor compliance.

Pharmacists can also use their experience and training to provide essential primary health care functions, especially for patients with chronic conditions, to monitor indicators such as blood sugar and blood pressure. Some pharmacy chains have already implemented this model with clinics seven days a week. If the pharmacist is interested in reading, he connects patients with doctors to review results, adjust medications, and discuss follow-up treatment.

Pharmacists are more than just pill dispensers and patient navigators. They are often the most familiar and accessible healthcare professionals in the community. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, they offered advice, COVID tests, vaccine advice, and vaccines themselves.

This was effective because pharmacists are often already personally connected with the communities in which they work, because their daily face-to-face interactions give them authority and trust throughout the area, offering patients (sometimes neighbors) points of contact and effective, tailored drug messages. health and wellness.

Lack of medical resources should not jeopardize the health of entire communities. Several key well-placed resources can go a long way in improving access and understanding. Pharmacists certainly have a role to play and can do it efficiently (and cost effectively) by delivering essential essential health care services coupled with telehealth technology. Filling some of the resource gaps offers pharmacists the opportunity to uplift and empower communities and begin transforming medical deserts into healthier places to live.

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