Study Examines Expanding Role of Pharmacists

Study Examines Expanding Role of Pharmacists

By Eugene Curtin

A quiet but persistent revolution in the practice of pharmacy has found a soldier in the form of Kim Galt, PharmD, PhD, professor of pharmacy at Creighton University.

Galt is in the second year of a three-year study funded by the state of Nebraska aimed at expanding the scope of pharmacy across the state. Beginning with independent pharmacies largely located in rural areas, but now starting to expand to urban chains and grocery store pharmacies, Galt is encouraging pharmacists to integrate themselves more completely into the management of chronic health conditions.

It is part of an ongoing trend in health care as pharmacists emerge from behind the counter to help patients manage such chronic maladies as high blood pressure and diabetes, accompany physicians on their hospital rounds, and build circular communications between themselves, the patients and their physicians.

For most people, and certainly for individuals living in remote rural areas, the local pharmacist is the most accessible health care professional, Galt said, and that fact has inspired hope that they can be used to more effectively help Nebraskans monitor their health and wellness.

The early pace is being set by such geographical outposts of the profession as Mark’s Pharmacy in Cambridge, Neb., a city of just over 1,000 people in south-central Nebraska on the Kansas border. Mark McCurdy, BSPha’88, the pharmacist and a Creighton graduate, has built his pharmacy into what Galt describes as a health center where residents are provided with far more than prescription refills.

“Pharmacists are getting engaged directly in health management all along the health spectrum and working more closely with patients who are acutely ill,” Galt said. “That fits well with an increasing awareness across a spectrum of ages of how expensive health care is and an emphasis on preventive approaches.”

Over a period of seven months, Mark’s Pharmacy established a free hypertension program that has enrolled 36 people committed to ongoing monitoring of their blood pressure and a review of the effectiveness of their medications, with the results forwarded to physicians.

The program has been so successful, Galt said, that the pharmacy is now planning to add diabetes care.

Pharmacies in the Nebraska cities of Sutton, Geneva, Beatrice and Wymore joined the program this year, and presentations on the program have been made to pharmacy chains in Omaha, Galt said.

The study is sponsored by Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services.