Letters to the Editor

Pharmacists are an untapped healthcare resource

As the national healthcare expenditure is projected to grow at a rate of 5.6 percent per year from 2016-2025, developing cost-effective ways to control costs is high priority for policy makers, administrators and tax payers.

In an effort to promote quality care while keeping costs down, the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program was instituted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In this program, seven conditions (acute myocardial infarction, heart failure, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, total hip/knee replacement, and coronary artery bypass graft surgery) are evaluated and hospitals are penalized financially for re-admission rates above the national average.

Regarding hospital re-admissions, it is noteworthy that up to 70 percent of preventable re-admissions are medication-related. For example, medication noncompliance contributes up to 64 percent of heart failure hospitalizations. Additionally, multiple medication use often contributes to re-admissions among the elderly.

While the issues of rising healthcare costs and hospital re-admissions are complex and multidimensional, targeted efforts to improve the use of medications have the potential to significantly slow the steady growth in U.S. healthcare spending.

Studies have demonstrated improved health outcomes — including reduction in re-admissions — associated with medication management provided by pharmacists. It is imperative that health policy acknowledges pharmacists as a key resource.

Tapping in to the skills of pharmacists, as doctorate degree-holding medication experts, is the first step to improving medication adherence, transition of care, and reducing hospital re-admissions.

Avatar Jones, PharmD, candidate,

Arinze N. Okere, PharmD, Associate Professor of

pharmacy

Florida A&M University, College of Pharmacy,

Tallahassee

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