Greater use of pharmacists within primary care appears to reduced demand for GP appointments and save money, suggests a study* published today in the British Journal of General Practice.
New models of care in general practice – including incorporating pharmacists into the primary care team – have been developed to meet the current pressures on workload, recruitment and retention.
Existing evidence suggests that pharmacists integrated into primary care can improve patient outcomes and satisfaction, but their impact on healthcare systems is still unclear.
A team at Imperial College London (ICL) set out to investigate what impact the incorporation of pharmacists was having on primary care.
They carried out an analysis of 28 relevant international studies that took place between 1987 and 2018 involving more than 32,000 patients.
Data was gathered on outcomes relating to GP visits, medications, hospitalisations, use of A&E departments, and overall healthcare costs.
Analysis of the results found that integrating pharmacists into primary care could reduce GP workload and also reduce attendance at A&E departments, although hospital admissions rates were unaffected.
The pharmacists contributed to saving GP time through a reduction in scheduled GP appointments and time spent on medication-related administration, as well as improving patient access.
Although the use of primary care increased overall, because of more frequent scheduled appointment with pharmacists, there was evidence of savings in overall health system costs and the costs of medication.
The studies analysed for this research included observational studies, and as such, cannot establish cause.
Lead author Benedict Hayhoe, of the Department of Primary Care and Public Health at Faculty of Medicine, ICL, said: “Evidence that pharmacists integrated in GP practices can reduce GP workload pressure whilst improving patients' access to primary care and potentially reducing use of costly urgent services is extremely positive.
“More research is needed, but this study provides further support for ongoing funding of pharmacists in this setting.”
*Hayhoe B, Cespedes JA, Foley K, et al. Impact of integrating pharmacists into primary care teams on health systems indicators: a systematic review. Br J Gen Pract 2019; DOI:10.3399/bjgp19X705461