How Walgreens empowers the art of pharmacy

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How Walgreens empowers the art of pharmacy

By Alex Broadus, Walgreens - 10/30/2019

Like so many, I love the science of pharmacy. Learning about how complex chemical equations lead to the unique mechanisms of action and side effect profiles of a given medication drew me to the profession. 

However, as I spent more time working in a pharmacy — first as a technician, then an intern and finally a pharmacist — I realized that knowing the science was just one aspect of what a good pharmacist does. The art of pharmacy sealed my lifelong passion for the work we do. I view the art of pharmacy as the unique relationship pharmacists build with patients. Perhaps more than any other healthcare provider, we have a chance to build a trusted and valued rapport with those we serve. According to one study, a high-risk Medicaid patient visits his primary care physician four times per year and a community pharmacy over 35 times a year. While this presents opportunity for pharmacists to strengthen relationships with patients, one of the challenges our profession has faced in recent years is how to make the most of these interactions to improve health outcomes.

As director of patient outcomes performance at Walgreens, I work to find solutions via technology that will help empower pharmacists to practice the art of pharmacy and help our patients. Through our clinical engagement platform and extensive programs, our pharmacists have visibility into which patients need additional support and in what way the pharmacist can lean in to improve health outcomes — whether it is assessment of adherence barriers when a patient is overdue for a refill or a diabetic patient who would benefit from a statin. We’ve connected with more than 15 million patients through our clinical platform since it launched in April 2018. In addition, we have strong partnerships in place with such industry leaders as OutcomesMTM and Pharmacy Quality Solutions, as well as our health plan partners to provide a holistic view of the patient to our pharmacists. 

Incorporating what we learn from the relationship with our patients, we recognize there are different expectations of how they want to interact with their pharmacist. We have a diverse omnichannel network to support these needs from our digital tools to the local pharmacist in the community, and even our more than 150 health outcomes pharmacists who reach out to patients who need additional support. For example, my mom loves Anna the pharmacist at her local Walgreens when she visits the store. She has been a tremendous resource for her in navigating new diagnoses, side effects and formulary issues. When she’s at home, she prefers to use the 24/7 chat feature from the app if she has a quick question for the pharmacist, or if her daughter isn’t picking up the phone.

Technology and systems will not be enough to strengthen the pharmacist-patient relationship, though. I’m proud to work alongside incredible regulatory and government affairs teams that actively are participating in conversations throughout the nation to simplify processes so that pharmacists have more time to focus on patient care. In addition, these teams are working with professional organizations at the state and national levels to expand technician responsibilities, as well as protocol prescribing and prescriptive authority for pharmacists. 

In the era of value-based care, pharmacists are best positioned to disrupt health care. It will be the pharmacists and their unique relationships with patients who are the change agents — not at-home delivery, packaging, machine learning, APIs or prescriber status. Empowering our pharmacists to meet patients where they are by practicing the art of pharmacy ultimately will help improve health outcomes in the communities we serve.  

Alex Broadus is director of patient outcomes performance at Walgreens.