Pharmacists do more for health care

A pharmacist counts pills to fill a prescription.

TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: When the health care overhaul takes full effect in a few years, millions of new people will join the ranks of the insured. And there is a good chance there won't be enough primary care doctors to care for them all. At least not at first. Which is why it might be a good time to get to know your neighborhood pharmacist. From the Marketplace health desk at WHYY in Philadelphia, Kerry Grens reports.


Kerry Grens: Pharmacists are doing more than dispensing pills these days. They're getting involved in treating and managing diseases.

Jen Reinhold: Well it's actually not a new idea. The thing that's new about it is the potential for reimbursement.

Jen Reinhold is a pharmacist and professor at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. She says several studies have shown that a pharmacist's involvement with patients improves their health -- and save money.

Insurance companies took notice. United Health announced this week it will pay Walgreens pharmacists to serve as "health care coaches."

Sharon Dunn, a director of product development at Walgreens, says pharmacists will get extra clinical training for the program.

Sharon Dunn: We are actually using dedicated pharmacists for this program as health care coaches. So we're not asking them to fill scripts behind the counter and then in their free time have one-on-one, face-to-face sessions with patients.

Pharmacy coaches are not common at retail pharmacies just yet -- that's because reimbursement isn't yet common either.

In Philadelphia, I'm Kerry Grens for Marketplace.

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