Turns out I’m part of a larger trend. Reports The New York Times:
“We are not just going to dispense your drugs,” said David Pope, a pharmacist at Barney’s. “We are going to partner with you to improve your health as well.”
At independent drugstores and some national chains like Walgreens and the Medicine Shoppe and even supermarkets like Kroger, pharmacists work with doctors and nurses to care for people with long-term illnesses.
They are being enlisted by some health insurers and large employers to address one of the fundamental problems in health care: as many as half of the nation’s patients do not take their medications as prescribed, costing nearly $300 billion a year in emergency room visits, hospital stays and other medical expenditures, by some estimates.
The pharmacists represent the front line of detecting prescription overlap or dangerous interaction between drugs and for recommending cheaper options to expensive medicines. This evolving use of pharmacists also holds promise as a buffer against an anticipated shortage of primary care doctors.
“We’re going to need to get creative,” said Dr. Andrew Halpert, senior medical director for Blue Shield of California, which has just begun a pilot program with pharmacists at Raley’s, a local grocery store chain, to help some diabetic patients in Northern California insured through the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.
Like other health plans, Blue Shield views pharmacists as having the education, expertise, free time and plain-spoken approach to talk to patients at length about what medicines they are taking and to keep close tabs on their well-being. The pharmacists “could do as well and better than a physician” for less money, Dr. Halpert said.
I have spent an inordinate amount of time this year at my local pharmacy, run by a veteran named Aqeel, a warm, plain-spoken guy with three daughters. His store is tiny, two aisles wide, and sits two storefronts away from a CVS, an enormous chain of drugstores. But since January, having to take a variety of serious medications for the first time to manage my osteoarthritis — from steroids to Fosamax — I don’t have the time, patience or interest in running back to my doctors every time I have another question about my health.
I first spoke to him a few years ago, when I asked which vitamins to use, and why. He actually sat me down on one of his folding chairs and explained how they work and would affect me. Some people don’t want that much explanation or want to take the time. I loved it. Someone who spoke to me like a fellow adult!
His friendly, open manner, combined with decades of experience, makes me feel safe asking him questions. When I took one drug recently (all of them new to me), I felt so incredibly lousy — disoriented and highly anxious, this on a weekend — I went back to ask him about it. That side effect was indeed unpleasant, but not unusual, he reassured me.
He’s one of three local merchants in my town I interviewed for my new book about working in retail, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” (Portfolio, April 14, 2011.)
Patients live a weird existence. Away from the few, hurried minutes with our busy physicians, some of whom are brusque and intimidating, we wander about in a fog of confusion. Yes, I read the accompanying literature so know what side effects to expect. But I didn’t know that, (hopefully) on the second dose of Fosamax, for example, a drug meant to build bone, I might not feel so dopey and tired.
Do you have a pharmacist you like and trust?
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