Pharmacists help in every stage of patient care

October 11, 2019

“Anything medication-related, pharmacists are in the trenches with the physicians,” says Dr. Lance Ballard, director of pharmacy at Clark Memorial Health. That involves each step from when drugs are received from the manufacturer to when a patient is discharged from the hospital.

October is American Pharmacists Month, and Lance says it’s easy for people to only think of pharmacists as filling prescriptions. “You don’t always get that interaction with the pharmacist at CVS or Walgreens,” he says. “I think where the hospital pharmacy really stands out is that our pharmacists have a key role in deciding what meds you’re actually going to be put on during your stay. They also come and counsel the patient so they know what to expect when they go home.”

The pharmacy team plays several important roles in patient care, including taking action through protocols for issues such as sepsis or hypothermia; monitoring the use of antibiotics and high-risk drugs (“We call it antimicrobial stewardship,” Lance says); and reconciling an admitted patient’s medications.

“We’re getting that accurate medication history so the doctor knows what they’re taking and even what could have caused the admission,” Lance says. “Then we also want to get a good history so they can continue their meds during their stay here.”

Drug shortages are a challenge the pharmacy team faces on a weekly basis.

“With a lot of medications, there’s only one manufacturer,” Lance says. “If they have a problem, it leads to a nationwide shortage. Then it’s up to my team to figure out how we’re still going to take care of patients. It’s something we have to manage day-to-day to make sure there’s no interruption in patient care. And luckily there hasn’t been. We’re always able to figure out something.”

As headlines on opioid abuse continue to saturate the news, Lance says one way Clark Memorial is working to ensure medication safety in our community is through its consumer drug take-back program.

“We have a bin where people can bring their prescription drugs they no longer need and dispose of them safely,” he says. “So you’re not leaving opiates in the medicine cabinet where kids could get them or they could be misused, and you’re not flushing them back into the water supply.”

The self-serve bin for the take-back program is located in the lower level of the hospital just outside the pharmacy.

Lance’s plans for his team’s future include having a pharmacist staffed in the hospital’s emergency department.

“Right now we’re looking to get a pharmacist down there full time to be able to help with patients’ transitions of care,” he says. “If we can help on the front end of their stay, that makes the whole admission a little smoother.”