by Jeffrey Bates, Dean of the School of Pharmacy
In years past, pharmacist work centered primarily on medications. Recently, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, patient needs have provided opportunities for pharmacists to offer direct patient care. In these roles, pharmacists are pioneering novel approaches to improve patient care experiences, increase the quality of care, and lower the overall cost of healthcare.
In the U.S., it is estimated that about $40 billion is spent each year on patients who experience medication errors (NCBI, 2021), while up to two-thirds of all adverse drug reactions are considered preventable (Ann Pharmacotherapy 2002). When looking at one of the most fragile population groups, elderly patients are eight times more likely to be hospitalized due to an adverse drug reaction than younger patients (JAMA 2006).
As escalating concerns have risen, pharmacists have demonstrated many ways they improve and prevent medication misadventures. And, as a result, society is finding these efforts to be valuable.
How can patients continue to receive quality health care advice from their frontline providers? At Cedarville University’s School of Pharmacy, faculty members are impressing on their students – tomorrow’s pharmacists – a vision for creatively reimagining health care, safely caring well for their patients, improving their quality of life as well as ensuring optimal health outcomes.
Some pharmacists serve as fully licensed prescribers, improving patient outcomes and quality of life. Cedarville alumna Dr. Vineeta Rao’s role has her serving as a clinical pharmacist on the Outpatient Oncology Palliative Care Team at UNC Medical Center. Patients with cancer are referred to her team for complex symptom management and additional support in coping with advanced illness. She works alongside a close-knit team of physicians, nurses and a nurse practitioner to optimize medication regimens for outpatients with cancer and troublesome symptoms related to disease or cancer treatment. As a Clinical Pharmacist Practitioner (CPP), Dr. Rao is a fully licensed prescriber under a collaborative practice agreement in North Carolina and frequently sees patients independently to assess symptoms and adjust medication regimens. Dr. Rao manages complex cancer pain for her patients, and she is thankful to be practicing at the top of her license, as her CPP credentialing allows her to prescribe opioids and controlled substances for her patients.
A group of pharmacy providers at CedarCare Village Pharmacy in Cedarville, Ohio – the teaching pharmacy for Cedarville University’s School of Pharmacy – have piloted a project where pharmacy staff now have access to their patients’ Electronic Health Record (EHR). This access to the patients’ entire clinical record is seen as vital to ensuring the highest-quality care. In fact, the facilitators of the pilot project note that “Patient care in the community pharmacy setting is often hindered due to limited access to adequate patient health information (PHI). Various studies suggest that lack of access to PHI is a main reason for delay in pharmaceutical care, medication dispensing errors and lacking interprofessional relationships between prescribers and pharmacists.”
These efforts have led to broader discussions in granting pharmacists access to EHR as a way to enhance the quality of patient care, improve the quality of the care they receive, and to prevent hospitalizations due to avoidable medical misadventures.
A Cedarville pharmacy alumna is expanding care for patients in Raleigh, North Carolina through drone delivery of medications, comprehensive medication management in a population health environment and telehealth visits with her patients. Dr. Danielle Baker serves at Atrium Health in the Wake Forest Baptist health system. In her current role, she oversees pharmacists and technicians providing care in the ambulatory and population health settings. Just this past year, the pharmacy population health team expanded services to provide care to health care heroes (employees and families) through comprehensive medication management. The pandemic has also expanded our footprint with drone delivery of medications and lab samples as well as telehealth visits.
Another Cedarville pharmacy graduate, Dr. Rylee Uber, serves at Geisinger Health Care, leading research, clinical practice integration, education and scholarship as they relate to pharmacogenomics. All of these responsibilities fall under the purview of the Geisinger Pharmacogenomics Program, which is led by Dr. Uber.
Harnessing pharmacogenomics allows Dr. Uber’s team to practice precision medicine, defined as“... the practice of integrating a patient’s unique characteristics into clinical care …” of patients. Dr. Uber’s team works to ensure this vital data is available at the point of care to support superior pharmacotherapy outcomes and quality of life among patients.
The role of healthcare in America continues to evolve, and, although the most recent transition was augmented because of COVID, the impact on patient’s health is a positive step forward. And, Cedarville University’s School of Pharmacy is leading the way from a faith perspective.
Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 5,082 undergraduate, graduate, and dual-enrolled high school students in more than 175 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is one of the largest private universities in Ohio, recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, high graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings, and the #4 national ranking by the Wall Street Journal for student engagement. For more information about the University, visit cedarville.edu.