The ideals of a long term care pharmacy are actually re-exploring the initial role of an apothecary within communities. Before the privatization of healthcare, most individuals relied heavily upon pharmacists as a form of primary care physician. By visiting the local apothecary, individuals were able to receive both basic diagnosis and treatment for a variety of common ailments.
Urgent care centers, emergency rooms, and specialty physicians have come to fill this role in modern times, with the pharmacy as an ancillary care provider for medications, either prescription or over the counter. The revival of the traditional role of pharmacy and pharmacist has arrived as the elder population grows and the preponderance of chronic progressive ailments has become a concern across the entire healthcare system.
Long term care pharmacies take over many of the roles of a general physician in terms of monitoring patient conditions and regulating drug protocols. The two major tasks that a long term care pharmacy will accept include the actual dispensing of medications for an extended care track and as a resource for information and education as a consulting service.
Technically, any pharmacy can become a long term care pharmacy, based on the managing business plan of the facility. While current trends are indicating that more general dispensaries will turn to becoming a long term care pharmacy, the majority of facilities that are practicing this conversion include:
- Nursing homes
- Long term care facilities
- Mental institutions
- Home healthcare agencies
- Hospice care
- Correctional institutions
- Rehabilitation centers
- Pain management facilities
- Adult day care
- Ambulatory and urgent care facilities
- Factories and industrial facilities
This offers up a number of settings for this type of practice. The majority of these locations for a long term care pharmacy are already set up to care for some form of resident population, which allows for patients to make use of pharmacist knowledge even if the nursing staff is engaged with other forms of patient care.
Community pharmacies, both privately owned and chain run, are also places where long term care is being phased into practice. This can further change the overall healthcare focus to become more patient centric. As a result, many individuals who are on a management regimen will find better care and monitoring of illness progression as well as possible drug interactions.
Duties of a Long Term Care Pharmacy
Since the two main factors that distinguish a long term care pharmacy will be the medications that are dispensed and the other services that are offered through the facility, these may include a number of supporting tasks that are performed. This is above and beyond regular pharmacy procedures of simply filling incoming prescriptions for medications and acting as a simple mediator between the patient and the physician.
The result is that many long term care pharmacies may have lab equipment and greater inventory that conventional drug stores, and may also schedule general exams and consultations with patients. Most long term care pharmacies will combine aspects of the two points of primary focus, although some will be more heavily weighted for dispensing.
The services that are provided by a long term care pharmacy will include a both tangible items and patient care actions. These will generally include:
- Review of drug regimens
- Monitoring of physical condition and response to drugs over time
- Review of medical records and clinical visits
- Nutritional support services
- Provision of medical equipment
- Fitting for surgical appliances
- IV therapy services
- Drug research
- Counseling of patients
While these actions will generally be experienced by the patient as a care centered practice, there are other tasks that a long term care pharmacy performs that are not immediately apparent. These will still relate back to the relationship that is established with the patient, and to the extended care that may be offered. Some of these services include:
- Establishing quality assurance programs for the medication and care that is delivered
- Evaluating and providing drug information, especially if it can impact existing drug protocols or secondary conditions that the patient suffers
- Patient education programs
- Packaging of medication for patient compliance
- Diagnostic services that may be performed in home
- Laboratory testing for blood panels and monitoring patient physiology
- Medication delivery systems
- Patient forms and reports
Benefits of a Long Term Care Pharmacy
While a long term care pharmacy can be an asset for any patient, these facilities play a large part in the healthcare concerns of individuals who require a consistent drug protocol. This may include elderly individuals, but can also consist of patients who have been diagnosed with chronic blood conditions, autoimmune diseases, and cancers. However, the overall benefits are still similar.
Long term care pharmacies establish a clinical relationship with the patient, and are thus able to act as more than a mediator between individuals and their physicians. The pharmacist takes on many of the responsibilities of a primary care doctor, in that they monitor the health of the patient over time. This means that in depth knowledge of patient history and current wellness concerns are all necessary to fulfill the role.
This becomes especially important with treatments that require frequent testing of the patient in order to ensure that metabolic actions are balanced. Patients who have a chronic ailment or are aware that they will require treatment over an extended period of time can make use of the long term care pharmacy as a service provider as well as a drug dispensary.
The Importance of Consulting
One of the other major roles that a long term care pharmacy fulfills is that of individualized care. By having the focus of consulting with patients about their condition, it also gives drug manufacturers and doctors necessary feedback regarding treatment. This addresses the fact that not all individuals will react the same way to specific therapies, and that the progression of any chronic ailment can greatly vary. Consulting services not only give patients peace of mind regarding their care, but can also catch detrimental reactions before they result in irreversible damage.