Dr Christopher Diehl Explains the Pharmacist's Role in Value-Based Models

Christopher Diehl, PharmD, MBA, BCACP, clinical pharmacist, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, discusses how the role of pharmacists has evolved with presence of value-based models and how pharmacists can ensure these value-based models succeed.

How has the role of pharmacists evolved with the growing presence of accountable care organizations (ACOs) and value-based models?
So, they’ve really expanded their roles. Now that we’re entering these formal agreements with health systems, pharmacists are now being able to integrate directly into physicians’ offices, and they play a much bigger role. Since we’re holding them accountable for costs, for quality, pharmacists are really in a prime position to help patients succeed, help the agreements succeed, and help their health system succeed.

So, as we get further along in these agreements, we start small. We might work with 1 or 2 pharmacists that are hired to help control costs. But as they’re starting to see the value, it’s not becoming much more systemic—they want to hire more pharmacists. They see the value, they see what they can do besides just changing medications. They help with adherence, they help with cost questions. They really help fill some of the needs that a physician has given their work load.

With value-based models, how can pharmacists help ensure that medications are used optimally?
Pharmacists—they know medication, they know the ins and outs, they are able to understand insurance, they can have better conversations with patients. It’s their job, and so, now that they’re really able to use these skills through our ACO agreements, they can really start to shine. They can show the value that they bring, where it’s not just dispensing drugs. It’s not just handing them out to patients. It’s making sure they’re able to take it, that they’re able to tolerate it, that they can afford it. And, addressing any barriers that come up. It starts off small where we address simple issues. But it makes a difference. It saves patients’ lives if they’re taking their medications like they’re supposed to, and they’ll have better health outcomes because of it.

How does this, in turn, ensure that value-based models succeed?
By doing what’s right. By addressing all the patient barriers by making sure that they’re able to take cost-effective medications, that they can afford it. We’re able to see long-term health outcomes. They’re avoiding those inpatient admissions, they’re avoiding those potential heart attacks, those other crises that happen when patients don’t take their medication. By working directly in the office beyond the capacity of working in a pharmacy, they’re able to have those relations with patients that establish that trust and really drive change.
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