Pharmacists work with doctors to assess patients, spot medication errors and even write prescriptions as the face of health care in the USA continues to change
Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News 12:29 p.m. EST February 7, 2014
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. — Jill Freedman felt as if her heart was jumping out of her chest. She knew her blood pressure was too high and feared having a heart attack or a stroke.
“I was freaking out,” says Freedman, 55. “You get very emotional when you think you could drop dead at any moment.”
Her doctor doubled one of her medications, she says, but that only made her feel worse. So Freedman turned to the one person she knew she could count on — her pharmacist.
“It was Diana who figured out what the problem was,” says Freedman, referring to her longtime pharmacist, Diana Arouchanova. “Had she not been on top of what I’m going through, God knows how many more weeks this could have potentially gone on.”
Arouchanova, who owns Clinicare Pharmacy, reviewed Freedman’s medications and realized that her problem stemmed from the dangerous combination of two prescriptions. She got the physician to change the medications and started checking Freedman’s blood pressure daily. Soon, it began to drop.
Once limited to filling and dispensing drugs, pharmacists are increasingly providing direct care to patients. Across the country, they work with doctors to give immunizations and help patients safely manage medications. In some places, they can write prescriptions after a physician’s diagnosis.
California is among the states to give pharmacists the greatest flexibility, partly because of a law that took effect this year. Other states, including New Mexico and North Carolina, also allow pharmacists to take on more clinical responsibilities.
It’s all part of a push by druggists and pharmacies to take a greater role in guiding patients and promoting good health. One prominent example is CVS Caremark’s announcement this past week that it will stop selling tobacco products to help customers become healthier — an image shift that the company says will serve it in the long term.
At the same time, health officials are looking for ways to ease the strain on overloaded doctors, improve care and contain costs. With millions of people gaining coverage under the nation’s health law, experts say pharmacists can fill gaps in primary care and help avoid unnecessary hospital admissions.
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