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Are Pharmacy Students an Untapped Resource for Improving Efficiency and Delivering Optimal Patient Care?

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Pharmacists are responsible for ensuring patients understand and use their medications safely and appropriately. However, the increasing demand for pharmacy services often overburdens pharmacists with administrative tasks like filling prescriptions, managing inventory, and counseling patients. They also have to perform medication reviews, which is where pharmacy students, depending on the province where they live, can step up and shine.

Pharmacy students are the industry's future, but they are often an untapped resource when it comes to improving pharmacy efficiency and delivering better patient care. The students are eager to apply their knowledge and can also represent a cost savings to the pharmacy.

So, what are medication reviews, why are they essential for patient care, and why are pharmacy students an excellent choice for this role?

What Are Medication Reviews, and Why Do We Need Them?

A medication review is a one-on-one meeting between a patient and a pharmacy professional where they critically examine the patient’s prescriptions. This review aims to ensure patients are taking their medications correctly while also optimizing medication therapy, minimizing adverse drug reactions, and improving patient outcomes.

Medication-related problems are a significant contributor to morbidity and mortality and a leading cause of hospitalization and healthcare costs worldwide, which is why it’s so important to conduct these reviews regularly. During this appointment, a pharmacy student can also suggest appropriate medication alternatives like generic or comparable drugs in the same class, which can help eliminate redundant drug therapies. Ultimately, a medication review can be motivating, corrective, and life-changing.

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After a Medication Review

When a medication review is done correctly, it will:

  • Focus on self-management for the patients and an understanding of patients’ medications.
  • Identify and fix problems patients may be having.
  • Answer patients’ questions and concerns.
  • Leave patients feeling informed and empowered.

Who Can Perform Medication Reviews?

Pharmacists are trained to perform medication reviews, but registered pharmacy students are also permitted to conduct reviews as long as a licensed pharmacist supervises them. These appointments last anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, allowing the pharmacist or pharmacy student to complete a comprehensive medication assessment that identifies and solves drug-therapy problems.

Leveraging the Skills of Pharmacy Students

Since pharmacy students are trained in pharmacology, pharmacotherapy, and medication management, they are well-equipped to perform patient medication reviews. And when pharmacy students are used as a resource for conducting these reviews, pharmacists can free up their time to perform other critical tasks in the pharmacy.

Medication reviews are also an untapped source of revenue; just five reviews a day can bring in an additional $300 per day, resulting in over six figures of additional revenue per year. That revenue is lost when pharmacists don’t have time to conduct these reviews. So, leveraging the skills of pharmacy students for medication reviews brings in those additional funds while also allowing the pharmacist to continue running the pharmacy.

Medical students having lecture in the lab

What Other Functions Can Pharmacy Students Perform?

In addition to conducting medication reviews, pharmacy students are well-suited to complete other tasks around the pharmacy.

Medication Tasks

  • Medication history interviews
  • First dose teaching
  • Food-drug interaction counseling
  • Patient education on prescription and over-the-counter medications and devices
  • Monitor medication therapies by performing profile reviews, interpreting laboratory values, and ensuring drug regimens are consistent with medication use guidelines and protocols
  • Administer vaccinations when applicable
  • Perform pharmacokinetic monitoring
  • Review documented adverse drug reactions/allergies and report new occurrences

Patient Care

  • Discharge counseling
  • Assessment of education and adherence
  • Participate in interdisciplinary patient care rounds
  • Work collaboratively with treatment teams to maximize individual patient outcomes
  • Blood pressure screenings and escalation of abnormal values to primary care providers for further investigation
  • Create updated medication lists for patients upon discharge from a hospital stay or end-of-clinic appointment
  • Establish and interpret patient information – active problem list, past medical history, physical exam data, laboratory data, hospital course, medication history, medication profile, pharmacokinetic evaluation
  • Administer vaccinations when applicable
  • Assess the patient’s progression to achieving desired medication treatment goals

Administrative Tasks

  • Perform computer order entry and claim adjudication
  • Prepare vaccinations, and confirm appropriateness through patient profile review and vaccination registries
  • Prepare blister packs
  • Prepare accurate extemporaneous compounded products
  • Review medication orders for appropriate dose, duration, frequency, dosage form, indication, and drug interactions
  • Retrieve, evaluate, and provide drug information to health care providers, answering general and patient-specific drug information questions
  • Develop and recommend appropriate therapeutic plans, identify and resolve drug-related problems, communicate with other health care team members, follow through, and document in the electronic record
  • Promote health, wellness, and disease prevention

By delegating some of these work items to a pharmacy student, pharmacists could be saving as much as $148 per task. That means if a pharmacy student is completing 20 of these tasks daily, the pharmacy is saving nearly $3,000 a day in overall costs.

Utilize Your Pharmacy Students

Pharmacists can free up their time to focus on other critical tasks, save money, and increase revenue by involving pharmacy students in medication reviews and other pharmacy functions. When pharmacists utilize their pharmacy students' skills and expertise, they ensure patients receive prompt and high-quality care at all times.

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