In the last few years, the role of the retail pharmacist—long a trusted member of the community—has grown considerably. Today, the local pharmacy is where people turn not only for prescriptions, disease management supplies, and education but also testing and vaccines. More expectations often come with more pressure, but I believe pharmacists are up to the challenge.
Here are three key reasons pharmacists are well-positioned to deliver what’s needed to meet the clinical and economic burdens of community healthcare, and particularly when it comes to diabetes care. There is also a significant role for the industry in helping pharmacists be successful.
First, retail pharmacists are adopting new technologies1. New platforms will give pharmacists a competitive edge and free up time from administrative work so they can focus on patient care. Digital solutions can help optimize information management and improve workflow2 and in The Prescription of Trust Report, a survey3 from Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and Express Scripts, 86.1% of pharmacists also agree that technology advances will make the practice of pharmacy safer.
[Read more: Enhancing diabetes prevention and care services]
Additionally, pharmacists’ ease with technological solutions will enable them to support patient use of digital tools that improve health literacy and management of chronic diseases. In diabetes, for example, blood glucose meters connected to popular tracking apps like mySugr make it simpler for people with diabetes to understand the impact of food, exercise, stress and medication, spot blood sugar trends, log health information, and collaborate with their healthcare teams. ‘Connected’ meters can be empowering and are widely available at the pharmacy, often supported with savings initiatives.
Second, we have found retail pharmacies at the national and regional levels to be strong and creative partners. Support from industry at the pharmacy can help put within patient reach recommended practices by healthcare providers that can lead to more personalized and effective lifestyle and disease management adjustments. These often lead to better outcomes.
In diabetes, for instance, there is a practice called paired blood glucose testing4, a type of blood glucose monitoring that is performed in a structured way, usually done before and after meals or before and after exercise and recommended to give people with diabetes more context for blood glucose readings that they can use to make healthier choices in the future.
A barrier to paired testing can be insurance coverage of test strips, but industry-partnered programs at the pharmacy can address this. At Roche, we have developed some of our most innovative programs in partnership with pharmacies. These programs include cash discount cards such as the Accu-Chek Pharmacy Discount Card, GoodRx and Blink, and in-store and online initiatives, to make our connect meters, test strips and diabetes supplies affordable so those for whom paired testing is recommended can do it
[Read more: Driving innovation in diabetes care]
Third: accessibility. Patients visit their community pharmacists almost twice as often as they visit their physicians. For patients with multiple comorbidities, visits to community pharmacies increase at an equal or greater rate than visits to healthcare providers5. With drive-up windows, extended hours and flexible scheduling, the accessibility and convenience of pharmacies make access to care possible. The pharmacy is also the healthcare hub for patient-centered services.
Accessibility and affordability continue to be the elephants in the room when it comes to healthcare, particularly in rural and underserved areas. Given the trajectory of chronic disease rates in the U.S.—of the population 50 years and older, the number with at least one chronic disease is estimated to increase by 99.5% from 71.522 million in 2020 to 142.66 million by 20506—pharmacists are a tremendous resource. It’s no different in diabetes—1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year7 and the numbers are growing.
People struggle to get what they need to manage their conditions. For diabetes, I know this professionally and personally. The retail pharmacy is vital, and I am confident pharmacists will rise to the new and ever-changing challenges. From my seat in the industry, I’m going to do everything I can to support them. Doing so is a win-win for all.
Matt Jewett is senior vice president and general manager, Diabetes Care U.S. at Roche
- Drug Store News. “In the coming years more retail pharmacy brands will adopt technology to gain a competitive edge.” January 30, 2023. https://www.drugstorenews.com/coming-years-more-retail-pharmacy-brands-will-adopt-technology-gain-competitive-edge (Accessed /3/6/23).
- Canadian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy. “Pharmacy Informatics: Where Medication Use and Technology Meet.” Cortes, et al. August 31, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6699873/. (Accessed /3/6/23).
- Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and Express Scripts. https://d17f9hu9hnb3ar.cloudfront.net/s3fs-public/2022-01/The%20Prescription%20of%20Trust-FINAL.pdf (Accessed 3/14/23)
- Diabetes Self-Management. Blood Glucose Self-Monitoring: Part 3. March 3, 2021. https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/managing-diabetes/blood-glucose-management/blood-glucose-self-monitoring-part-3/ (Accessed 3/13/23).
- Journal of Managed Care & Specialty Pharmacy. “Pharmacists as Accessible Healthcare Providers: Quantifying the Opportunity.” Valliant, et al. https://www.jmcp.org/doi/pdf/10.18553/jmcp.2022.28.1.85 (Accessed 3/14/23).
- Frontiers in Public Health. January 13, 2023. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9881650/. (Accessed 3/14/23).
- American Diabetes Association. https://diabetes.org/about-us/statistics/about-diabetes. (Accessed 3/14/23).