Expert discusses pharmacists’ role in rural access to care, supporting health equity

Pharmacy Times interviewed Tera Moore, PharmD, BCACP, National Program Manager, Clinical Practice Integration and Model Advancement at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, about the pharmacist’s role in integrating patient access to care in rural areas. Moore discussed how team models of care are centered around providing the best patient care. Moore also emphasized the importance of connecting patients living in rural areas to address improving health equity and reducing disparities.

Pharmacy Times

Can you introduce yourself?

This is Moore

I’m Terra Moore. I am the National Program Manager for the Pharmacy Benefits Management Division, Office of Clinical Pharmacy. I specifically work on clinical practice integration and model advancement in the CPPO office.

Pharmacy Times

Can you give a brief overview of team models of care and how this can support access to care in rural areas?

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Moore

Team models of care are truly centered around providing the best patient care. And it’s experience from all the different disciplines on the team. When you think about it visually, the patient is really at the center of care. Teams are able to deliver on the quintessential health care goal, which includes improving patient care, reducing health care costs, improving the patient experience, but also provider well-being. Of course, this fifth part of the goal has to do with health equity. And so, with a practicing pharmacist as part of that team, providing that holistic medication management, teams can achieve that fivefold goal and really individualize it in shared decision making with the patient they’re caring for. There are team models in many settings, but specific to these rural patients. We know there is a shortage and an opportunity for both primary care and mental health to provide better access with these models.

Pharmacy Times

What are the current ways that a rural health care system and a federally qualified health center could connect? And how could they benefit each other?

Moore

So Federally Qualified Health Centers are federally funded non-profit health centers or clinics. They serve medically underserved areas or populations. With 15% of Americans living in rural areas, we know there are disparities due to geographic isolation. There can often be higher levels of health risk behaviors and then limited employment opportunities. So services for … disorders and other specialties are limited. There really is a need to connect these patients to care to improve this health equity and reduce these disparities.

Pharmacy Times

What are the necessary elements for integration between pharmacists to serve in a rural setting?

Moore

There are several elements to successful integration of the practicing pharmacist into this rural environment, but there are also so many opportunities. Some of these most important identify the highest clinical needs for the field, for comprehensive medication management. What is the technology infrastructure to help reduce these geographic barriers—not only to increase access, but also to increase quality. And we certainly know at our core how important it is to have stakeholder buy-in. Both from the management of the clinic or the health care system, but also from those members of the frontline team and certainly funding to support the maintenance of any of these services.

Pharmacy Times

Is there anything you want to add?

Moore

I will just say that the pharmacy practitioners that we know are well positioned and they are highly trusted experts on medicines that increase not only access and quality care, but also that bottom line. They are a key resource for improving health care for rural veterans and achieving health equity.

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