How patients interact with health care has changed. Driven by digital health investment, site of care shifts, wearable devices, and at-home lab testing kits, we have entered the world of "everywhere care."
While everywhere care creates new opportunities for patients to access services, it's not without challenges. Chief among these is care fragmentation—patients are unsure of where to seek care and providers are unable to get a complete picture of a patient's medical history. When it comes to medications and pharmacy care, this can lead to serious patient safety concerns.
Advisory Board recently brought together a group of pharmacy leaders from across the health care ecosystem to discuss pharmacy's role in everywhere care. Together they imagined the changes needed to ensure patients can receive quality care, anywhere. Read on to learn the key takeaways from the conversation.
3 key takeaways from the workshop
1. Everywhere care's impact is already sending shockwaves through the pharmacy ecosystem, and getting this care right is critical for serving the next generation of patients.
One of the first questions we asked pharmacy leader attendees was about the level of impact that they expect the shift to everywhere care will have on pharmacy care. Overall, 94% of attendees expect that the shift to everywhere care will have a moderate or high impact on pharmacy care in the next five years.
Many pharmacy leaders are already seeing these impacts as patients shift out of hospital-based infusion centers and into freestanding sites or home infusion programs, motivated both by the pandemic and health plan pressures. However, the long-term shift toward everywhere care will likely be much broader.
As generations that are comfortable with technology age into the need for chronic disease management, they're also expressing new preferences on where to seek care. Digital natives like Gen Z and Millennials are used to direct-to-consumer care, and may be interested in interacting with their pharmacy or providers virtually or via an app.
2. As care becomes more fragmented, pharmacies play a key role in ensuring that patients don't slip through the cracks.
When patients switch sites of care, such as for infusions, prescribing physicians can be cut off from updates about the patient. In such cases, it's unclear who has responsibility for ensuring that the patient follows through on their care plan. Maybe it's the provider. Maybe it's the new site of care.
Workflows and standards may vary across the sites, leaving stakeholders with differing expectations. If each stakeholder assumes the other is responsible for patient outreach, the patient is ultimately left alone to navigate an increasingly complex health care environment.
Pharmacy staff are well positioned to spot patients falling through the cracks, because they may see prescriptions coming through from multiple providers and may also have more frequent touchpoints with a patient than other providers.
For example, patients receiving prescriptions from more than one provider may be prescribed duplicative or conflicting medications. The pharmacist in charge of dispensing the patient's prescriptions may be the only touchpoint with full visibility into the patient's treatments.
3. To fill in care gaps created by everywhere care, pharmacy leaders are often still relying on traditional, person-to-person strategies.
In their approach to everywhere care, pharmacy leaders often find themselves operating tactically on two fronts to support patient care. Even as they support their organizations in embracing digital transformation, they're also implementing old-school methods to ensure patients don't fall through the cracks.
For example, one organization is certifying pharmacy technicians as community health workers who can provide patient care and coordination when they deliver medications to patients' homes. Another is proactively calling patients who are at risk of non-adherence and providing medication management as needed.
The future of everywhere care depends on cross-stakeholder collaboration
It's exciting to picture a health care system that is as efficient as predicting consumer preferences as Instagram or TikTok. However, the influx of new sites of care also creates a new set of challenges. It can be difficult to discern what services are providing quality care. Patients can get lost in the shuffle. Data can pile up, untransferable and therefore unusable to promote positive health outcomes.
It's not always clear who has the ultimate responsibility for keeping patients from falling through the cracks. In some markets, provider organizations are taking the lead, while in other markets it's a health plan. Life science and digital health companies also have a critical role to play, whether that looks like improving data interoperability or creating new products that simplify care coordination between different health care entities. Ultimately, successfully transitioning to everywhere care will only work for the patient when everyone collaborates to support positive patient outcomes.