Objective: To describe the state of community pharmacy, including patient care services, in the US.
Findings: Chain pharmacies, including traditional chains, mass merchandisers, and supermarkets, comprise more than 50% of community pharmacies in the US. Dispensing of drugs remains the primary focus, yet the incidence of patients being counseled on medications appears to be increasing. More than 25% of independent community pharmacy owners report providing some patient clinical care services, such as medication counseling and chronic disease management. Most insurance programs pay pharmacists only for dispensing services, yet there are a growing number of public and private initiatives that reimburse pharmacists for cognitive services. Clinical care opportunities exist in the new Medicare prescription drug benefit plan, as it requires medication therapy management services for specific enrollees.
Discussion: The private market approach to healthcare delivery in the US, including pharmacy services, precludes national and statewide strategies to change the basic business model. To date, most pharmacies remain focused on dispensing prescriptions. With lower dispensing fees and higher operating costs, community pharmacies are focused on increasing productivity and efficiency through technology and technicians. Pharmacists remain challenged to establish the value of their nondispensing-related pharmaceutical care services in the private sector. As the cost of suboptimal drug therapy becomes more evident, medication therapy management may become a required pharmacy benefit in private drug insurance plans. Pharmacy school curricula, as well as national and state pharmacy associations, continually work to train and promote community pharmacists for these roles. Practice research is driven primarily by interested academics and, to a lesser degree, by pharmacy associations.
Conclusions: Efficient dispensing of prescriptions is the primary focus of community pharmacies in the US. Some well designed practice-based research has been conducted, but there is no national research agenda or infrastructure. Reimbursement for cognitive services remains an infrequent, but growing, activity.