In a session titled “Meaningful Collaboration Between Pharmacists and Physicians to Improve Quality and Meet Patient Needs,” presenters discussed their learnings from successful collaborations between physicians and pharmacists as payment models move towards risk-based payment. Many physicians are interested in working with pharmacists to improve the health of their patients and ease the workload in their practices, but they might not fully realize the capabilities of pharmacists or how to employ or contract with them.

Rae Ann Williams, MD, FACP, Regional Medical Director, Primary Care HealthPartners Medical Group, discussed how a team-based approach to opioid-abuse issues benefited patients and care providers alike. Part of the collaborative workflow, she said, includes reviewing the pharmacy prescription monitoring program. “Is this patient using opioids safely? Are there any other substances being prescribed from other clinicians that we should know about? We partnered with our pharmacies so that there is education at the time of dispensing, particularly for new starts,” she said,  “and we partnered with our MTMs to help us with safe and effective tapers for those patients for whom deprescribing was the best thing.”  

The results of physician-pharmacist collaboration, Dr. Williams recounted, are dramatic. In October 2016 the care group prescribed 1,029,303 opioid pills and 200,126 new prescription starts; in September 2017, the care group prescribed 153,684 new starts, a drop of  23.2%, or 898,210 opioid pills. “We also see great outcomes with hypertension and diabetes,” she added.

Key learning points reinforced during the session include the essential nature of a culture of partnership, identifying “pain points” for physicians, appealing to a common goal of reducing “time spent working,” and a pharmacy value proposition for improving access and disease outcomes, increasing medication adherence, and decreasing hospital readmission.

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