Pharmacists well-positioned for larger role in patient care amid growing provider shortage

With provider shortages intensifying, new survey data published Wednesday reveal that pharmacists are highly trusted and well-positioned to take a larger role in direct patient care.

The U.S. owns one of the highest hospitalization rates for conditions requiring ambulatory services, yet the physician shortage is projected to rise to between 54,000 and 139,000 by 2033. Patients, providers and pharmacists agree that the latter is primed to help with this growing workforce shortage, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and Express Scripts Pharmacy experts underscored in their Prescription of Trust report.

“The results of the report are clear. Most people trust pharmacists to play a greater role in providing their care,” said John McHugh, MBA, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Columbia’s public health school. “As the shortage of doctors and nurses persists, and as complex new therapies and digital healthcare technology solutions are developed, the role of the pharmacist will continue to evolve.”

Nearly 80% of pharmacists surveyed believe they will take on a bigger role in preventative care and further integrate with healthcare teams by 2030. As of now, more than 77% of patients view pharmacists as integral to their health, with the majority having no problem with them checking vitals, diagnosing acute conditions and prescribing medications for such ailments.

On the provider side, including physicians and nurse practitioners, 63% believe pharmacists will be more involved in preventative care by 2030. Forty-four percent even forecast pharmacists working in primary care practices for more direct collaboration.

The findings are based on responses from more than 3,000 patients, 1,000 pharmacists and 500 providers surveyed between November and December.

Many pharmacists are already more active in medical decisions for patients, the report authors noted, and COVID-19 has only sped up the process. It would be no surprise if these healthcare professionals expand their role to fill the growing gaps in care, they added.

“As we look at the emerging forces shaping the future of healthcare, it is clear that accelerated pharmacological innovation and expanded pharmacy services are two of the most fundamental driving forces,” Eric Palmer, CEO of Evernorth, a parent company of Express Scripts, said Wednesday.

You can read much more in the full report here.

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