A Pharmacist’s Role in Cardiovascular Disease Risk Management


Insights pharmacies need to make a dynamic change in healthcare delivery

New statisticsi from the American Heart Association show the heart-wrenching cost of cardiovascular disease. As the leading global cause of death, cardiovascular disease kills 17.3 million people each year, and accounts for one dollar out of every $6 spent on healthcareii

Eighty million Americans suffer from conditions that put them at serious risk for heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular disease - and 2,150 of them die every dayiii. Those numbers are expected to grow as generations of Americans age and acquire more cardiovascular comorbidities.

Patients may be able to manage their cardiovascular disease and risks with medication, but a strong healthcare delivery system focused on risk assessment and education is needed to enforce patient adherence, control costs and improve outcomes. Pharmacists are uniquely positioned to fill that role. As highly accessible healthcare providers, pharmacists can leverage their skills, knowledge and patient relationships to help their communities manage risks and learn healthier habits.

Disease and Risk Management
As one of the first points of contact after a patient is diagnosed, pharmacists play a critical role in adherence by helping patients understand how and why to take their medications. Pharmacists can further monitor adherence and patient safety by integrating medication management therapy (MTM) into the pharmacy workflow. Doing so will allow them to provide personalized service and create strategies that address each patient's unique challenges, from motivating them to stay on regimen to understanding when and how to take their medication and managing side effects.

Additionally, pharmacists provide more than prescription guidance to these patients. The American Heart Association warns patients on blood pressure medication to take precautions when selecting over-the-counter (OTC) drugs for cold or influenza. Many of these drugs contain ingredients like pseudoephedrine or antihistamines, which can cause dangerous side effects. Pharmacists should ensure patients understand these risks and educate them on safer alternatives.

Education and Living Healthier
As pharmacists take on a more active provider role, particularly as patient counselors, more and more patients are having conversations with their pharmacists that they used to have with their physiciansiv. This gives pharmacists a distinct advantage when it comes to educating patients, reinforcing healthy habits and promoting the ABCS: aspirin when appropriate, blood pressure control, cholesterol management and smoking cessation.

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Teaching patients how to self-manage their care is also vital to reinforcing adherence and giving them ownership over their health. To build trust and drive these lessons home, pharmacists should use a variety of education techniques, such as one-on-one counseling, educational collateral and formal classes. In-person communication has been shown to impact patient behavior more dramatically than other forums for counseling such as phone, email, text or mail, thereby turning pharmacist accessibility into a tangible benefit on outcomes. Pharmacists should provide education on how to use blood pressure monitors and how to interpret glucose and cholesterol screening results. Community health fairs provide an excellent forum for pharmacies to address heart health and provide these types of screenings.

Addressing cardiovascular health and wellness in the community underscores the critical role pharmacists play in the delivery of care for their patients. Pharmacists should take advantage of available resources to continually build necessary skills and knowledge. The American Pharmacists Association provides advanced training on pharmacy-based cardiovascular disease management. And advocacy groups such as the NCPA and the Million Hearts® initiative also offer education and solutions for engaging pharmacies in MTM and cardiovascular care.

Pharmacists play a critical role in the delivery of healthcare. For many patients, a meaningful conversation with their pharmacist can be the first - and most important - step toward managing and preventing cardiovascular disease.

Learn more about the pharmacist's role in preventing cardiovascular disease.

i 2015 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics Update, American Heart Association, December 2014
ii National Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program Staff Orientation Guide, Center for Disease Control, September 2011
iii 2015 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics Update, American Heart Association, December 2014

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