Pharmacists may do a better job than doctors helping chronically ill patients manage their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels if they’re allowed to direct people’s health care, a new evidence review suggests. The review also found that pharmacists could manage chronic diseases with about the same efficiency as doctors.
The review also found that pharmacists could manage chronic diseases with about the same efficiency as doctors.
However, current evidence doesn’t show whether pharmacists can actually improve a patient’s overall health if they take over someone’s care from a doctor, said study senior author Dr. Timothy Wilt. He’s a professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School, and a staff physician at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System.
Wilt and his colleagues also couldn’t show whether having a pharmacist manage your care can help you live longer or reduce symptoms caused by chronic ailments such as heart disease or diabetes.
“That was a bit frustrating for us, because that’s really what patients really care about — will it help them live longer and better?” Wilt said.
The reason for the interest in pharmacist-driven care is that some areas of the United States don’t have enough doctors. Due to these shortages, other types of health care workers, such as nurse practitioners or physician assistants, are being called on to help fill the gaps, Wilt said.
New legislation introduced in Congress would establish pharmacists as health care providers, and pay them accordingly through Medicare in communities where there aren’t enough doctors, the study authors said.
To determine how well pharmacists might perform if they led the management of a person’s chronic disease, Wilt and his colleagues reviewed 63 published studies. The studies included 65 different patient populations with more than 33,000 people.
The findings suggest that patients receiving pharmacist-led care were more likely to achieve target goals for blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar compared with patients receiving usual care, according to the study.