|"I remember when America needed a hero and the pharmacist stepped up and is now the health care professional with optimal access to patients," said pharmacist consultant John Michael O'Brien, PharmD, MPH, in a lecture at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.
The stars were lining up for pharmacists in 2004 as O'Brien was beginning his career and policymakers were contemplating changes needed in health care, he told an auditorium of students and faculty.
O'Brien is a senior advisor and national field director for the Centesr for Medicare & Medicaid Service's (CMS) Partnership for Patients and leader of the U.S. Health and Human Services' (HHS) Million Hearts initiative.
In delivering the School's annual Andrew G. DuMez Memorial Lecture, Innovation and Pharmacy, "Scaling and Spreading Quality Improvement in Patient Care," O'Brien challenged students to join him in vast new opportunities for pharmacists to make a greater difference in patient health care.
O'Brien says because of the launches of Medicare Part D for prescription drugs in 2006 and the Affordable Care Act in 2010, newly graduated pharmacists are primed to help the nation weather "a perfect storm" of health demands: more baby boomers, higher health care costs, and expanded responsibilities and partnering opportunities from the health care reform act. "I believe pharmacists' best days are ahead of them because the time is now. There is no better time to be a pharmacist," O'Brien said.
The active and passionate advocacy of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, he said, needs to be copied and multiplied by many more of the 120 of the nation's pharmacy schools. One theme of the School's curriculum is that pharmacists are uniquely qualified to provide medication therapy management services, monitor drug-drug interactions, and to counsel patients on the importance of medication adherence.
The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy - perennially in the top tier of the nation's pharmacy schools - has initiated the innovative P3 (Patients, Pharmacists, Partnerships) Program in collaborationwith the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Maryland Pharmacists Association in which pharmacists provide medication therapy management services to employees of participating companies. Employers who have signed up to participate are saving about $495 to $3,281 per employee per year in health care expenses. "I know I'm talking to P3 country here, but I wish we would see P3 in more places," said O'Brien.
"A large-scale health care change has been built. Now our ability lies in implementing it," he said.
The goal of the HHS Million Hearts initiative is to prevent a million heart attacks and strokes in five years, O'Brien explained. "In the United States, less than half the people are at their cholesterol goal or blood pressure goal." He continued, "The hope comes from the examples that the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy is either replicating or initiating, such as the P3 Program and the work of the Center for Innovative Pharmacy Solutions. In addition, I have met with faculty from your School's Department of Pharmaceutical Health Services Research and most of the health care problems have medication-related issues.It is not a question of if, but of how we provide solutions."