Soon you could visit your pharmacist instead of your primary care doctor for common ailments

Posted at 5:32 PM, Jan 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-15 19:58:34-05

CLEVELAND — The role of local pharmacists are changing, and soon they will be able to do much more than fill prescriptions. They will be able to step in where primary care doctors normally would for certain things and save you time and money while doing so.

“I think we know in America that we have imperfect healthcare delivery,” said University Hospitals' Director of Retail and Ambulatory Care Pharmacy T.J. Grimm.

Even so, when Grimm became a pharmacist 25 years ago he might not have known his career would morph into something new.

In April, a new Ohio law will allow health insurance companies to pay pharmacists to do some of the things your doctor would do, like test for a sinus infection, strep throat, diabetes or other preventive screenings.

“The biggest factor that determines whether or not a patient will take their medicine is having a relationship with their pharmacist,” said Grimm. “Patients do not often take their medicines and in the under served communities in particular, it’s very bad.”

The 2015 Journal of Hospital Medicine showed that pharmacist involvement with patients has a positive impact on their overall health attentiveness and decreases hospital visits.

“This gives pharmacists an opportunity for more of their day to be spent in direct patient care,” Grimm said.

There's more to it than simply going to a pharmacist. Your primary care doctor must sign off on the pharmacist you use before you can start going to them for medical care.

“Certainly the pharmacists that are based in hospitals and in medical care centers…it makes sense there because your part of a larger team,” said News 5 Political Analyst Tom Sutton

Sutton says the new law is one that is growing in popularity among many states and satisfies both political party’s needs.

“This is really where the two sides get to come together. It’s producing the kind of results that both sides want to see — lower cost, more access for more people,” Sutton said.

There is concern however about the amount of work this now puts on the pharmacist.

“The demand issues definitely a problem, it’s definitely a challenge. Really the only way to handle that is to try to find ways to open up access to more people to go into this field,” Sutton said.

Ohio state university is a good example of making this idea work. Pharmacists there have already been brought in as members of the healthcare team as opposed to a standalone entity.

Similarly, University Hospitals says it plans to almost double its pharmacy staff and will block off specific rooms for medical consulting.