Pharmacy leadership as patient advocates

Healthcare is a complex topic, especially in the United States. From rising costs to a dwindling pool of experienced professionals, there is a great need for more students to focus their careers on this industry. An exciting avenue to explore within healthcare is the innovative role pharmacists play in the industry. The responsibilities of a pharmacist are expanding, and today they serve more than a few important functions. This article will explore modern pharmacy leadership and how it drives advocacy and innovation in the healthcare industry.

What does “pharmacy leadership” mean?

You’re probably familiar with the idea of pharmacists, but you might be less so with the idea of leadership in pharmaceuticals. What exactly does a pharmacy leader do? To narrow down a complex topic, pharmacy leaders optimize medication use systems for safety, optimize the distribution and use of pharmacy resources, develop future leaders, and staff, and promote the idea of pharmacists as patient advocates.

While all of these roles and responsibilities are important, the latter is one of the most critical. A few decades ago, pharmacists dispensed medication and did little else as far as interacting with patients. Over the years, their roles have expanded significantly. Today’s pharmacists are often the first line of defense when patients have mild health concerns. Whether they need help treating a cold or the flu or are interested in securing vaccinations and improving their health literacy, pharmacists are the go-to intermediary between primary care and patients.

Part of serving patients is being on the cutting edge of drug and medication research. This is another pharmacist role that you might not know. Pharmacists do more than dispense medication and help you if you feel sick. They also play a big part in trialing new medications, securing proper manufacturing standards for that medication, and distributing it to the patients who need it.

Medication appropriateness

One of the main ways that pharmacists function as patient advocates is by double-checking whether prescribed medications are appropriate for patients. Sometimes prescribed medications are simply not the best fit for patients and could do more harm than good. This happens for a few reasons, such as:

Transcription errors at the office-staff level

Sometimes a decimal point is misplaced, or a number is missing, or perhaps the wrong medication altogether is entered into the system before the prescription is sent to the pharmacy. The result is a dosage that is off and could harm the patient rather than help them recover.

Medication errors at the prescriber level

While professionals do their best not to make mistakes, sometimes an error is made, and either the wrong medication is prescribed or a dose that is clearly incorrect makes its way onto a prescription form. It’s a pharmacist’s job to note these errors and begin the process of helping patients find the correct medication that suits their health needs.

Patient mix-ups

This could come down to primary care providers misplacing files and entering medication for the wrong patient, or something more serious could be at play. Either way, the result is the same: the patient is prescribed something that is not appropriate for their health, their health issue, and their needs. Pharmacists can tackle this by diligently recording all medicine intake and outtake from their pharmacy and monitoring the side effects of the patient.

Pharmacists use their best judgment when it comes to dispensing medications and ensure that patients are taking the right medication for their treatment at the right levels to improve their health.

Medication safety

In the same vein as above, sometimes medications patients are prescribed aren’t a good choice for them based on certain safety factors. Many medications have interactions with each other and while these conflicts are usually detected before a medication is prescribed, the pharmacist is the last line of defense against dangerous medication interactions.

If patients take medication that has a negative interaction with another medication they’re taking, side effects can range from a mild headache to cardiac arrest, or death. Pharmacists are an important safeguard between patients and unintended side effects. They examine not only the medication being filled, but also the way it interacts with the other medication the patient takes. If they find the potential for dangerous interactions, they intervene and typically speak with both patient and provider to confirm the prescription.

Another way that pharmacists push for medication safety is through research and development. Drug development and where their medications come from are concepts most patients never think to question. As long as it is safe and helps them feel better, most people don’t do deep dives into the process of drug creation. However, the process of developing medications has a huge impact on patients around the world.

Pharmacists conduct and fund research to develop safe and effective drugs which they then dispense to the masses as prescribed medications.

Medication management

One of the most important roles pharmacy leadership plays in today’s healthcare industry is medication/drug management. Pharmaceutical professionals have a vast knowledge of medications. They complete extensive education to practice, including advanced degrees. From attending in-person classes to earning a doctor of pharmacy online, pharmacists earn degrees from reputable schools like the University of Findlay so that they can acquire the knowledge necessary to impact patient health and safety. Pharmacists manage the overall distribution of medicine around the country, including identifying medications most likely to experience shortages.

There are a few ways in which pharmacists can help to alleviate medical pressure for the community, including:

  • Identifying high-priority medications that are likely to experience shortages.
  • Locating licensed, geographically diverse, and vetted manufacturers to manufacture them.
  • Helping to develop loyal relationships with manufacturers who prioritize transparency on raw material availability, sourcing locations, safety records data, safety stick, and rapid replenishment capabilities

Effective pharmaceutical leadership creates and serves at the center of programs promoting the above responsibilities, ensuring that patients receive the best medication for their needs on time and in the right dosage.