Most healthcare consumers – 66% of US adults – use prescription drugs. As a result, researchers estimate that Medicare users see their pharmacists twice as often as their primary care providers. Others estimate that 9 in 10 US citizens live within 5 miles of a pharmacy. But despite the importance of the pharmacy, it’s an overwhelming place for many. Pharmacy goers are concerned about their diagnoses, affording prescriptions, and taking medications correctly, and there are frequently long wait times and lines.
But pharmacies aren’t just places to pick up prescription medications. Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians provide health education, medication adherence instructions, and even social services to their patients. Pharmacists even help identify health conditions for their patients using pharmacies’ weight and blood pressure monitoring stations. But with so many responsibilities, many pharmacy teams report needing additional time with their patients. Integrating community health workers (CHWs) is one strategy to bridge this gap.
CHWs are community members with training in health education, promotion, and social service navigation. In the pharmacy, CHWs help patients understand their medication instructions, develop healthy habits to improve their health conditions, and more. Some pharmacies integrate CHWs into their teams, while others have their pharmacy technicians cross-trained as CHWs. So why should your pharmacy team add a CHW?
CHWs increase medication adherence.
Medication adherence – taking medication appropriately and as instructed – is influenced by many factors. For example, researchers report that instructions, comorbidities, side effects, and medication frequency all influence how well patients follow medication instructions. Because pharmacists are incredibly busy, some individuals don’t receive the medication education they need. Some patients may have questions, beliefs, and barriers that their pharmacists don’t have time or resources to address. In these cases, CHWs can provide that support. When CHWs address these factors, medication adherence increases.
CHWs provide improved social services.
Prescription medications aren’t the only thing consumers need to manage their medical conditions. For example, controlling high blood sugar requires medication, exercise, and healthy eating. That means people with type 2 diabetes in the pharmacy also need access to healthy foods and ways to stay active. CHWs address these needs by providing social services, such as connecting clients to local food pantries, cooking lessons, and healthy living classes. These social services can significantly improve clients’ well-being beyond simply taking medications.
CHWs offer insurance navigation services.
For many consumers, one of the most stressful aspects of the pharmacy is affording medication. In addition, understanding complex insurance coverage is difficult for many, especially in underserved communities. Fortunately, CHWs have training in insurance navigation. CHWs connect consumers to reduced-price prescription services, enroll clients in Medicaid and Medicare, and more.
CHWs assist with mass vaccination efforts.
Vaccinating against COVID-19, the flu, and other vaccine-preventable illnesses can be challenging. Individuals are vaccine-hesitant for many reasons, including previous negative experiences with vaccines and misinformation about vaccinations. Although CHWs cannot administer vaccines, they can help individuals understand complex medical topics and reassure individuals who are nervous about vaccinations.
How to Add a CHW to Your Pharmacy Team
There are many ways to add a CHW to your pharmacy team. Your strategy will depend on your funding sources, organization structure, and other factors. For example, in some pharmacies, it may be better to have your current pharmacy technicians cross-trained as CHWs. In others, creating a new position to add a CHW to your team may work best. For assistance integrating a CHW into your pharmacy team, contact the expert team at Everyday Life Consulting. Our team can provide the CHW training your organization needs and the structural help to integrate them into your team.