May 16, 2019

The following article published in the Dayton Business Journal highlights how the Cedarville University School of Pharmacy is disrupting healthcare through innovative solutions.

New Cedarville initiative moving the needle on collaborative health care
By Laura Newpoff
DBJ contributor

If pharmacists are going to realize their value as part of a patient’s healthcare team, they will need to think like innovators and entrepreneurs and not just assume new laws will be the key to improving care, says a Cedarville University professor.

So call it providential that a new law is allowing pharmacists to practice at the top of their licenses and help drive outcomes for patients in a positive direction.

That’s according to Justin Cole, director of the Center for Pharmacy and Innovation at Cedarville University, which launched in early 2018 with the support of key pharmacy-thought leaders in Ohio.

Cedarville University is a Christ-centered learning community that was founded in 1887.

The new law, which went into effect this year, recognizes pharmacists as providers. The Ohio Pharmacists Association calls it a recognition that the “profession has evolved considerably in recent years.”

If pharmacists are going to realize their value as part of a patient’s healthcare team, they will need to think like innovators and entrepreneurs and not just assume new laws will be the key to improving care.

“Integrating pharmacists into an inter-professional team can improve the clinical outcomes for patients,” Cole said. “Being a pharmacist in Ohio is like having rock star status in the pharmacy world and we’re working on several new, innovative projects.”

Fostering innovation in pharmacy care

The center’s goal is to identify creative solutions; provide educational initiatives; and promote patient advocacy that positively impacts patients and expands the pharmacist’s role as part of a collaborative health care team.

To accomplish that mission, the center will encourage inter-professional collaboration; support faculty and student innovators; fund innovative projects in health care; and provide entrepreneurship training for pharmacy students.

While many of its new projects will be “disruptive” and help broaden the pharmacist role beyond prescription filling, Cole also wants to re-envision what that buzzword really means. So, while groundbreaking work will go on in the center, there also will be plenty of excitement about finding simple solutions to simple problems that already exist.

“Disruptive innovation is a big buzzword in technology and the healthcare sector with things like virtual reality, 3D printing, and telehealth,” Cole said. “One of the things we want to do through the center is to help pharmacists see where they can make a difference in these spaces.

“We also want to empower pharmacists to be a part of small, incremental changes that over time can lead to big improvements in health,” he said. “That might mean a pharmacist asking, ‘How can I help make medication therapy more affordable or convenient and improve quality? Where can safety be enhanced?’ It’s often the process of asking simple questions where the biggest innovations happen.”

Cole plans to work to attract innovators and funding for pilot projects to address issues such as medication non-adherence, rising drug and healthcare costs, appropriate integration of technology, and new drug discovery. The center will collaborate with the Ohio Pharmacists Association, among others, to develop creative solutions to health care issues.

Another focus area is the opioid crisis. With the Dayton region at the epicenter of the crisis, the center has been involved with turning the tide of opioid overdose deaths. Through strategic partnerships, the center educates youth on the dangers of prescription drug abuse; educates prescribers on safe opioid prescribing practices; distributes medication waste disposal bags to the public; and studies motivational interviewing as a way to improve chronic pain management.

Expanding the pharmacist’s role

From a practitioner standpoint, Cole sees several areas where pharmacists’ roles will grow. One is the comprehensive medication review component of medication therapy management. It’s a service where pharmacists meet with people who are taking up to a dozen or more medications to educate them on their prescription regimen so they have positive outcomes in treating their diabetes, high cholesterol, and blood pressure, for example.

Pharmacists also have the opportunity to directly provide chronic disease-state management care in concert with physicians.
Ideally, going forward, there’ll be less fragmentation of care with pharmacists serving as a common touch point to help coordinate patient care among all providers.

“Part of our work is to foster collaboration among all providers,” Cole said. “It’s not an answer to everything that ails health care, but if you leverage the unique strengths and skills of pharmacists and work in conjunction with others, the quality of care could improve exponentially.”

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