How Walgreens empowers pharmacy to improve outcomes

David Orgel
Principal, David Orgel Consulting

It is a long-standing challenge: How to free up pharmacists to spend more time with patients that need extra attention?

Walgreens is making progress through an effort that involves a new pharmacy role, said Rina Shah, group vice president of specialty and retail pharmacy operations. She spoke during an executive panel at the Drug Store News Industry Issues Summit in New York City in December. The panel was called Enabling Patient-Facing Care.

“In this past year, we created a new role called the Health Outcomes Pharmacist to provide individualized pharmacy solutions and care for patients with complex, chronic conditions,” she said. “The pharmacist in this new role is primarily responsible for supporting patients that want and need high-touch care.”

These pharmacists are given time and support to perform this function, which partly involves asking patients a lot of questions.

“They sit down and talk to the patient to understand what are their barriers to care,” she said. “They ask how do they take their medications? Do they need help getting their medicines from the pharmacy? Do they need us to talk to their physician? Are they on the right medication?”

The results have been impressive both for learning about patients and educating them.

“We’ve uncovered tremendous valuable information by talking to these patients and received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the patients who receive this support,” Shah said.

Pharmacists learn about such patient needs as transportation or 90-day refill solutions. They teach patients about how to take their medications.

These high-touch situations necessarily are not ones that can be solved through technology, Shah said. “But technology provides data and insights into patient challenges and frees up the pharmacist to be able to talk to those patients that need us the most.”

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