Clinical pharmacy is a branch of pharmacy that involves the provision of patient care with the use of drugs to optimize patient health outcomes. This includes promoting wellness and preventing disease. The practice of clinical pharmacy embraces the philosophy of pharmaceutical care. In addition, it combines patient care with specialized therapeutic knowledge on the use of drugs.
The clinical pharmacy movement started in medical clinics and hospitals, but has since spread to all healthcare settings. As a result, clinical pharmacists now often work as part of a multidisciplinary team with physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to optimize medication use for the best patient outcomes.
Role of the clinical pharmacist
Clinical pharmacists are experts in the therapeutic use of drugs within the healthcare team and can perform a variety of tasks, including:
- Evaluate drug therapy and make appropriate recommendations to patients or healthcare practitioners.
- Provide evidence-based information and advice on the safe and effective use of medicines.
- Recognize untreated health problems that could be managed with drug therapy.
- Monitor the patient’s progress with medications and make relevant recommendations for change
- Counsel patients on the best way to take their medication
- Assist in the direct care of patients in hospitals and consulting rooms.
- Develop requirements for continuing professional development after registration for governing bodies.
Historically, the role of the clinical pharmacist was generally limited to hospitals, clinics and educational institutes, but this is developing rapidly and they are becoming more easily accessible to the public. This growth is due to the involvement of clinical pharmacists in reviewing treatment regimens and providing advice on information hotlines to prevent medication errors in the future.
Depending on the country or the state of practice, some clinical pharmacists are also able to prescribe certain drugs and the scope continues to expand.
Interaction with patients
Clinical pharmacists often apply their knowledge of drugs into a particular patient’s treatment plan and assess the suitability of dose, side effects, efficacy, and drug interactions. If necessary, the clinical pharmacist can discuss any problem and make relevant recommendations to the physician primarily responsible for prescribing medications to patients to ensure that medications are used optimally.
In many cases, the clinical pharmacist works directly with patients to help them understand the medications they are taking and encourage them to take them as directed.
Education and formation
Clinical pharmacists are required to acquire higher education training in a recognized qualification area in order to practice. The specific requirements for these degrees may vary depending on the country of the workplace.
The subjects typically covered by a clinical pharmacist’s university program include biology, chemistry, pathology, pharmacology, and socio-behavioral sciences.
Most clinical pharmacists in the United States have earned a Doctor of Pharmacy (Phar.D.) degree, in addition to several years of postgraduate training, such as a residency in pharmacy. They can choose to become certified as a clinical pharmacist through the Board of Pharmacy Specialties, which is independent of the American Pharmacist Association. Education and certification requirements in other countries are likely to vary based on guidelines established by regulatory bodies.