Study Scopes out Pharmacy's Shift to Pharmaceutical Care

Article excerpt

Pharmacists are spending a lot more of their time dispensing drug information, not drugs, than they did 16 years ago, according to the first in-depth pharmacy practice study since 1978.

Pharmacists think that delivering pharmaceutical care to individual patients is their single most important and time-consuming function, according to the newly released Survey of the Practice of Pharmacy. The study results appear to reflect pharmacy's so-called paradigm shift toward the pharmacist as drug therapy expert and away from the pharmacist as drug product dispenser.

The pharmacists surveyed said they now spend more than 55% of their work life delivering pharmaceutical care, which includes patient counseling and monitoring outcomes. And they reported they spend 21% of their time on public education and providing drug information, compared with just 6% in the 1978 study.

Freed from the traditional distributive role by technicians, the pharmacists surveyed spend just under 9% of their time developing and managing drug distribution and control systems, and they rate this role as moderately important. Techs, on the other hand, allocate 21% of their workday to preparing, dispensing, distributing, and administering medications.

The study found that, in terms of time, hands-on management of the pharmacy is still a major task for pharmacists. But they don't think too highly of having to wrestle with managing personnel, operations, information systems, equipment, and fiscal resources. This function area was rated as minimally or moderately important by both R.Ph.s and technicians.

Conducting research is barely a blip on the radar scope of pharmacists and technicians, who rated it as not important or minimally important in their practices. In addition, pharmacists and techs think it's only minimally to moderately important for them to manage medication use systems, which includes drug use evaluation, drug use review, adverse drug reaction surveillance, and development of formularies and drug use policies and protocol. Such tasks also take up only a small percentage of their time.

Results of the study will serve as a road map to the profession's future. The data will be used to guide pharmacy school curricula, training and continuing-education programs, specialty recognition initiatives, and self-assessment offerings. The results could also be helpful in the development of examinations associated with licensure and credentialing for pharmacists and technicians. In addition, researchers can draw on the data to flesh out the functions, responsibilities, and tasks of pharmacy technicians, as well as the knowledge and skills required of them as cogs in the pharmacy manpower machine.

To get a handle on current practice patterns, surveys were mailed to 5,000 pharmacists and 2,000 technicians in June 1993. Beginning in early 1992, the project's task force, focus panel on pharmacy technicians, and other subject-matter experts developed a role delineation of pharmacy practice. A task analysis was then developed from that delineation, and the survey was conducted to get practitioner input on the importance of the tasks and how much time they required to perform.

The survey is part of the Scope of Pharmacy Practice Project cosponsored by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, American Pharmaceutical Association, ASHP, and National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. The project received substantial funding through a grant from the Pew Charitable Trust in Philadelphia.

For more information or to request data, write to: Scope of Pharmacy Practice Project Secretariat, American Pharmaceutical Association, 2215 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20037.

R.Ph.s R US

The survey provided the following profile of pharmacist respondents:

* Sixty-five percent were male and 35% were female. …