On August 7, Walgreens brought together several internal pharmacists for a LinkedIn Live discussion on the evolution of pharmacists as community healthcare providers.
The LinkedIn event dubbed, “Walgreens Pharmacists shift from treatment to hands-on care” was led by Rina Shah, senior vice president, pharmacy of the future and transformation at Walgreens and co-moderated by Glen Schumock, dean at the University of Illinois Chicago College of Pharmacy. The event also featured Walgreens pharmacists Rebecca Persaud, manager of specialty pharmacy, The Villages, Fla.; Brad Lawson, healthcare supervisor, Little Rock, Ark.; and Darshana Patel, manager of specialty pharmacy at Fountain Valley, Calif.
The panelists weighed in on the following: How pharmacists’ roles are expanding beyond dispensing medication and ways Walgreens is harnessing their advanced clinical training; personal journeys of pharmacists and the transformation they’re experiencing themselves in the industry as community pharmacists; and improvements in pharmacist recruitment and digital innovations that will enable pharmacists to practice at the top of their license.
[Read more: Watch DSN: Walgreens’ Rina Shah examines change in retail pharmacy segment]
Shah opened the discussion by saying that when she attended pharmacy school she was excited about the different areas pharmacists can practice in, including hospitals, ambulatory or industries such as the pharmaceutical industry. "I found my passion in community pharmacy, I saw what our pharmacists did every day and what I could envision myself doing. In school I was excited to leverage the full scope of what my degree allowed me to do. When you graduate you realize not every state allows us to leverage our full scope. My mission for the future of pharmacy is can we set up an environment to leverage pharmacists to make the most impact with patients."
Schumock, who in addition to being in academia as a dean, has had several roles in the pharmacy industry, said, "As a dean I enjoy working with students and seeing them graduate and going on to stellar careers. There are so many opportunities. Our students are smart, motivated and energetic and want to make a difference. Students graduating today are better prepared and ready to practice at an advanced level. The public needs them and expects them to provide direct care. This was amplified during the pandemic. Pharmacists practicing clinically can have a huge impact on the lives of patients and this is true regardless of where they practice."
The discussion moved to the importance of mentorship.
Patel noted that she mentors at high school career fairs in order to impact students early on. "Our site is a preceptor for pharmacy technician schools. In California, we have a plethora of technician schools. We also mentor our internal retail pharmacies. We’re giving out staff exposure to specialty and how they can bring what we do at a specialty level and how they can utilize that at retail," she said.
[Read more: How a Walgreens ambulatory care pharmacist is helping patients in Phoenix]
Persaud added that she is working as a preceptor at four pharmacy schools and assists with onboarding of pharmacists when they come to Walgreens in retail as well as in the area of specialty pharmacy.
Lawson added, "We need to get the brightest people into pharmacy who are caring and emphatic and committed to our patients and to the profession. We have a large emphasis on residencies. They are getting out from behind the counter and addressing health equities. We're making great strides in moving away from the brick and mortar count by fives model to being a healthcare destination."
On the topic of freeing up pharmacists from mundane tasks, Shah noted that there is a high volume of prescriptions to be filled and the company is using microfulfillent, automation and centralization to help free up pharmacists' time from dispensing so that they can better engage with patients.
Patel touched upon the usefulness of the Walgreens app. "It has helped pharmacists and patients. We’re getting better adherence rates and less phone calls in the pharmacy. It’s also reducing patients' time. They're able to get texts and email notifications and go into the express lane to pick up. Specialty patients are able to answer clinical questions on the app," she said.
Lastly, Shah noted the progress that Walgreens has made in technology over the years.
"Ten, 15, 20 years ago we were innovating and making sure our systems were connected and now we have incredible tools to allow us to text when a prescription is ready, offer delivery, especially for patients with transportation barriers. This allows us to focus on the ones that need us the most...We know community pharmacy makes a difference in patients' lives. We're constantly innovating and changing to meet the needs of our patients. How we embrace technology will make us more effective. It allows us to manage different situations and environments."