October is a wonderful time of the year. The temperature starts to change, Halloween is right around the corner, and the entire month is dedicated to pharmacy because October is American Pharmacists Month!
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates there are more than 2.5 million pharmacists and pharmaceutical personnel worldwide. However, some people are unaware of all the different settings where pharmacists practice today.
When people think of a pharmacist, most think of the person dispensing down at the corner drug store. Even on the nightly news, pharmacists are often depicted counting tablets in a tray and labeling a bottle. But the world of pharmacy has constantly evolved.
Since the mid 1700s, pharmacies have been a part of American culture. Pharmacists could prescribe and dispense medication without needing a prescription – until the early 1950s, when the Durham-Humphrey amendment was added to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938. Now, pharmacists need a physician's prescription to dispense many medications.
Today's pharmacists work in many practice settings: community, hospital, industry, and many others. Their duties include administering vaccines, providing detailed medication counseling, reconciling medications, researching new medications, dosing medications, and much more.
In the hospital setting, pharmacists are now meeting face-to-face with patients, rounding daily with members of the medical team, and serving in leadership capacities. Due to the increased focus on value-based purchasing, pharmacists are becoming gatekeepers for core-measure compliance. Additionally, the Doctor of Pharmacy degree has allowed pharmacists to become more clinical in nature. After completing a PharmD degree, some pharmacists even go through one or two years of residency training.
In the retail setting, pharmacists are providing Medication Therapy Management (MTM) services that optimize drug therapy and improve outcomes for the patients they serve.
All of these clinical activities lead to improvement of patient outcomes and cost savings for the entire healthcare system. Gone are the days when the pharmacist simply "licked, sticked, poured, and counted."
How do you envision the pharmacist's role changing in the future? I anticipate an increasing scope of practice, which is sure to include limited prescribing as the shortage of physicians continues. As the world of pharmacy continues to grow, pharmacists must be considered a valuable part of the patient care team.