Can Pharmacists Solve The Shortage Of Physicians?

Recently, there have been a lot of changes that healthcare professionals witnessed. The role of healthcare professionals has changed and it is believed that by the year 2035 the numbers of primary health care physicians who are now available and managing patients are not sufficient. And with that, the role of non-physicians health care providers such as Pharmacist, physician assistants, nurse practitioners might have to give a hand to address these societal needs. Countries like England have already begun using the expertise of pharmacists to help health practitioners in various ways to meet their health care needs.

Physician Shortage

This initial shortage led to the expanded scope of practice for nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Since then, the shortage has continued to increase with fewer graduating physicians entering into the field of primary care.

Many reasons have been postulated to explain this consistent decline, such as a push for specialization and the high cost of medical school. This has left a gap in our ability to provide everyone with adequate health care services across our country. Numerous solutions have been presented to fill this healthcare gap. One solution that has been evolving in parallel consists of the changing role of pharmacists in healthcare.

New Role of Pharmacists in Healthcare

The role of a pharmacist has evolved over the past few decades from an auxiliary member of the healthcare team to direct patient care providers. Pharmacists have left traditional roles of “lick, stick, and pour” to now providing disease management. The escalating costs of healthcare and powerful medications with narrow therapeutic ranges have made the role of a pharmacist as a care provider more important than ever.

Pharmacists are trained to be care providers and, as such, have proven them able to improve efficacy and safety of medication use, positively impact the patient experience, and increase access to medications and vaccinations. Yet despite these advances, hurdles to the expansion of pharmacy services remain, including the lack of federal recognition as providers, slow adoption of pharmacist scope of practice acts at the state level, limited acceptance of the expanded role of pharmacists among leaders in health systems and other healthcare providers, and minimal ability to receive reimbursements for services. Hence, although evidence supports pharmacists’ expanded role, limitations to implementation, sustainability and scale remain, especially as it relates to providing preventative outpatient care.

Fixing The Solution

Fixing the doctor shortage requires a multi-pronged approach. This includes innovations such as team-based care and better use of technology to make care more effective and efficient. AAMC-member medical schools and teaching hospitals have been leading the movement to work better in teams with other health professionals like nurses, dentists, pharmacists, and public health professionals. These institutions also are developing new knowledge of what works in health care not only by reading the textbooks but writing the textbooks to advance the delivery of care.