Specialization Is Pharmacy's Future

Article excerpt

DISPENSED AS WRITTEN

The future of pharmacy - a healthcare profession in which the role in patient treatment and care is continually growing - is specialization. It is pharmacy specialization that will enable our healthcare system to meet the mandate of controlling cost by improving medical outcomes. This will be accomplished through the provision of more care in community settings, as well as by reducing unnecessary hospital readmissions.

We are already seeing it happen. Where, once, all pharmacy services were provided in one place, specialty pharmacies are currently operating in areas such as oncology, geriatrics, diabetes, fertility, HIV, psychiatry, nuclear medicine, nutrition support, the compounding of specialty medications, and pharmacotherapy Various pharmacy specialty certifications are granted through organizations such as the American Pharmacists Association, the Board of Pharmacy Specialties, the American Society of Health- System Pharmacists, and the American College of Clinical Pharmacy.

I never envisioned the degree of specialization that exists today when I converted my retail pharmacy to one of the nation's first women's health and fertility pharmacies in 1982. At that time, specialty pharmacy was considered to be on the periphery of pharmacy, in much the same way that some consider alternative medicine to be on the periphery of the medical field.

The current trend toward pharmacy specialization is rooted in many factors. Chief among them is that pharmacy students today receive more clinical training than ever before. The six-year PharmD program includes many more hours of clinical medication management than did the shorter programs. Residency and fellowship requirements for pharmacists have also become increasingly stringent and demanding.

Also supporting the drive toward specialization is the heightened role of the pharmacist as a collaborator on the patient care team. The nation is confronted with a shortage of primary care physicians, and this has led to the elevation of other members of the care team, including nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and pharmacists. As pharmacists become more involved in evaluating a patient's therapeutic options, they will need to possess expertise in a broad array of different areas. …