Continuity of Care: The Impact of Health System Pharmacy Beyond the Hospital Walls

Health system pharmacists are expanding patient care beyond the hospital walls.

By: Margaret Ryman

Read time: 4 minutes

For many patients, health system pharmacists are a key source of information and care, providing clinical consultation, education, and patient advocacy as an integral part of the patient care team. But the impact of the health system pharmacist reaches beyond the hospital walls as they expand roles to coordinate care, manage medication-related outreach to the community, and identify appropriate therapies.

Having expanded from the traditional hospital setting to serving as the medication expert in a range of other sites, health system pharmacists play an important role within the healthcare system.

This may include ambulatory care clinics, home care, and long-term care settings. Health system pharmacists may also work with health maintenance organizations on formulary management, disease state management, and claims processing and adjudication. In addition, they work at universities and academic health centers to train student pharmacists and participate in research and drug development.1

Regardless of the setting, the fundamental role of the health system pharmacist is to serve as the medication expert on a team of healthcare providers. Health system pharmacists recommend safe and effective medication therapies for patients, and they help monitor these therapies. They work to prevent and detect medication errors, advise patients on the appropriate use of medications, and are responsible for supervision and storage.

An Expanding Role Amid A Public Health Emergency

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists and technicians have expanded their role to adapt to a rapidly changing healthcare system.

In April 2020, the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act authorized pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 tests. As the pandemic continued, enabling pharmacists and technicians to administer testing and vaccines allowed more front-line care for patients, freed up space in hospitals, and helped manage labor and PPE shortages.

During the pandemic, some health system pharmacists transitioned from hospital-based functions to remote order entry and verification, as well as telepharmacy services. This allowed pharmacies the ability to expand services, as well as provide better access to medical care and vital education in rural and underserved communities.

Patient Advocacy and Support

Health system pharmacists provide essential support to patients including safe and effective medication administration, adherence and side-effect monitoring, counseling, and guidance. By supporting patients, hospital pharmacists are taking an active part in efforts to reduce readmission rates.

They also provide outpatient pharmacy services, leading to more integrated care delivery and direct visibility of patients and their health needs, which results in fewer medication errors and improved patient safety. In outpatient clinics, pharmacists work in collaboration with other health professionals to review and manage medications for those with chronic health conditions. Hospital outpatient pharmacies can also provide medication as a patient is transitioning to home, enabling them to leave the hospital with medication in hand, avoiding delays.

Expanded Roles for Pharmacy Technicians

Pharmacy tech on computer  

Similarly, pharmacy technicians have also expanded their roles and proficiency in a variety of tasks. Along with technician coordination operator, the role of pharmacy communication coordinator also emerged, aimed at providing staff and other departments with pertinent communications. Additionally, the drug shortage management coordinator role became an even more critical role during the pandemic, centralizing the task of obtaining critically needed medications for the entire health system. This position allowed for up-to-date communications throughout the system on the status of critical medications, identified therapeutic alternatives where possible and coordinated with distributors and manufacturers on these critical drugs.

A Focus On The Future

Through pharmacological innovation and expanded services such as wellness screenings, telepharmacy counseling, and diagnosis and management of acute conditions, pharmacists are supporting patients now and into the future.

Learn how we work with health systems to help them achieve more.