The Role of Pharmacists in Health Systems
Health system refers to all organizations, people, and activities whose primary purpose is to promote, restore, and maintain health. Good governance of health systems is therefore important to ensure the delivery of essential health services to all, whenever they are needed. To identify and assess the capacity of health systems, the World Health Organization (WHO) has defined six essential “building blocks” to which pharmacists can play an integral role as members of the health care team.
- Health services
As medicine experts, pharmacists hold the responsibility to deliver effective, safe, and quality medicines and services to achieve optimal health outcomes. Competency in their discipline and up-to-date knowledge, therefore, are pharmacists’ core in tailoring information and advice to their patients.
- Health workforce
Well-performing pharmacists are responsive to patient’s needs and preferences. In fact, involving patients in the health care decision-making process has shown greater satisfaction and reduced complaints to offered services. Given the paradigm shift from a product-oriented to a patient-centered pharmacy service, putting the interests of patients and treating them with dignity is a must.
- Health information
As one of the most-accessible health care professionals, pharmacists are involved in health screening and surveillance programs - checking immunization status and detecting potential public health hazards. With reliable and timely health information, pharmacists support the development of the public health system and collectively reduce vulnerability to public health threats.
- Medical products, vaccines, and technologies
With an increasingly wide range of new and analogous medical products, vaccines, and technologies, the complexity of pharmacy practice continues to broaden. The roles of pharmacists are not only limited to medical products, but also include vaccines and medical devices, especially those that demand special knowledge with regard to uses and risks. Pharmacists, therefore, are responsible for ensuring the efficacy, integrity, and security of medical products, devices, and, vaccines to safeguard a patient’s health.
- Health financing
In an effort to protect vulnerable populations from financial hardships, pharmacists ensure the provision of cost-effective health care through rational use of medical products and modern technologies. Majority of published studies have demonstrated the potential of pharmacists in substantially increasing health care savings across various settings, attributing such result to pharmacists’ expertise in reducing and preventing medication-related problems and in providing cheaper alternatives or suggesting medicines that are covered by insurance.
- Leadership and governance
Pharmacists take part in public health policy development; linking disease prevalence and drug utilization, pharmacists enable development of effective health policies, as well as they allow disease prevention to be placed within a larger context. In addition, pharmacists contribute to the emergencies in terms of designing response plans and protocols, and they contribute to resource mobilization through optimization of medication use and distribution.
In conclusion, the integration of pharmacists into health systems has the potential to improve medication measures, improve social protection, and ensure Health for All. Capacity building programs for pharmacists in the health system should stand in place to strengthen the practice. With that being said, it is also important for pharmacists to constantly reassess and reposition themselves in primary health care to improve patients’ health access and to improve efficiency of health care delivery. Pharmacists should, therefore, maintain their professional competency at all times to ensure accountability and capability.
World Health Organization. (2007). Everybody's business -- strengthening health systems to improve health outcomes : WHO's framework for action. Geneva: World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/iris/handle/10665/43918
Essential Medicines and Health Products Information Portal. (1994). Retrieved from World Health Organization: http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Jh2995e/
American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. ASHP statement on the role of health-system pharmacists in public health. Am J Health-Syst Pharm. 2008; 65:462–7.
Dalton, K., & Byrne, S. Role of the pharmacist in reducing healthcare costs: current insights. Integr Pharm Res Pract. 2017; 6: 37–46.