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September 25, 2019

Pharmacists: Easy to Reach, Ready to Help

- Written by Cathy Kuhn, PharmD, BCACP, FAPhA, director of Strategy Consulting, Updox

October is American #PharmacistsMonth—a time to recognize pharmacists and share the positive impact they make in their communities.  The month-long celebration begins today, on #WorldPharmacistDay, and continues throughout the month, with National Women Pharmacists Day on October 12 and Pharmacy Technicians Day on the 15th. 

Serving our profession as the APhA Academy of Pharmacy Practice & Management (APhA-APPM) President gives me a front-row seat to pharmacists’ positive impact, and fuels my drive to see us fully claim our role as members of the healthcare team.  I’ve also been on the front line, advocating for Provider Status, particularly within my home state of Ohio. This past April, Senate Bill (SB) 265 went into effect, formally recognizing pharmacists as providers according to Ohio law. As of June, there were 109 state provider status bills in 34 states in the 2019 session.  We are making great progress, and we need to keep our foot on the gas pedal.

This year’s theme -- “Pharmacists: Easy to Reach, Ready to Help” -- speaks to pharmacists’ superpower, and what sets us apart from a host of other healthcare providers.  We are accessible, embedded in our communities, and positioned to offer practical, yet powerful, care and counsel to people of all ages and health status.  

As pharmacists, sometimes we forget how the knowledge we have can really impact a patient. One of my favorite stories is about a patient I was seeing for diabetes coaching. I was completing a comprehensive medication review with her and asked her how she was taking her hydrochlorothiazide. To my surprise, she was taking it at night. I talked to her about taking it in the morning and the side effects associated with it. The next time we met, she gave me a big hug. She had not been sleeping well for months because she was constantly waking up to go to the bathroom. Finally, she was getting sleep! 

My story is not unique.  Every day, pharmacists ensure that patients properly take their medications as prescribed and avoid any harmful effects.  It’s why I’m so passionate about the work we do.  The knowledge, skills, and expertise that pharmacists have to optimize medication use are underutilized by our current healthcare system, but that phenomenon is changing, and patients will benefit. 

I also strongly believe that innovation, and specifically, technology will be a catalyst for pharmacists to further engagement with and positively impact patients, regardless of location.  This belief inspired me to join Updox, where I’m working at the intersection of technology (such as telehealth,) provider status and value-based care.  I can envision a day, not far off, where a patient with multiple chronic conditions can access her doctors, her pharmacist and other members of the care team through her smartphone or tablet.   It is already happening, and will continue to grow, as patients demand this level of convenience, and care coordination, from their healthcare providers.

I’m proud to be a pharmacist, and prouder still of my friends and colleagues who care deeply for their patients while tirelessly working to advance our profession.  Join me in celebrating them today, and all month long. Visit www.pharmacistsmonth.com to learn more and participate in the #APhM2019 celebration.

About the Author: Cathy Kuhn, PharmD, BCACP, FAPhA, is director of Strategy Consulting for Updox and serves as “voice of the clinician” for Updox solutions and services. She is past president of the Ohio Pharmacists Association and current president of the American Pharmacist’s Association’s (APhA) Academy of Pharmacy Practice and Management and APhA board member.

Topics: Pharmacy, Pharmacists, Blog, communication, technology