NEW YORK If anyone still doubted the extraordinary contributions that pharmacists can bring to the nation’s costly and overloaded healthcare system, the Nov. 23 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine should lay their doubts to rest. In a report on a new and innovative approach to treating hypertension, the publication highlighted the impact that a true working collaboration between doctors and pharmacists can have on successful patient outcomes.
The report, lead-authored by Barry Carter of the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy, focused on a study of 402 people treated for high blood pressure at six clinics. Those patients were divided into two groups. Half the patients comprised a control group and were given a traditional treatment regimen for hypertension, where a prescription is written by an attending physician and the pharmacist’s role is simply to fill the script and provide basic initial counseling.
The other group was luckier. Those patients were ushered into a 21st-century style of medical practice and wellness. Their condition was managed and monitored by teams of physicians and pharmacists who were trained to adjust dosage regimens, and even the drugs dispensed, based on the patient’s ongoing condition.
The results were dramatic. After a six-month trial, 30% of patients in the control group were able to get their blood pressure down to recommended levels. More than twice as many of the patients who participated in a doctor-pharmacist team approach -- 64% if them, to be exact -- achieved the same improvement.
A few forward-looking health plans and insurers, such as Kaiser Permanente and the Department of Veterans Affairs -- along with some of the most progressive university-affiliated medical centers, such as the Cleveland Clinic and Duke University -- already pursue some collaborative-care programs. Hopefully, the results of the hypertension study will spur more such efforts.
Amid the nation’s urgent search for health reform and solutions to the unsustainable rise in chronic healthcare costs, it’s an idea whose time is long overdue.