Pharmacists and Reproductive Health Care Access

In Inviting the pharmacist: a model for improved reproductive care access, published in the journal Contraception, author Don Downing writes about the perception of pharmacists as uninvolved in patient care and access to reproductive services and education.

The article begins with this story:

On a Saturday afternoon in 1998, in a small town in Washington State, a 15-year-old young woman accompanied by her friend enters a local pharmacy and walks up to the counter.  The tearful 15-year-old needs help and tells the pharmacist of being raped the night before. She expressed being too afraid to tell her parents, the police or her doctor.  She decided to come to the pharmacy because it was less scaryand she was aware that pharmacists in the state could prescribe emergency contraception.  The pharmacist took the patient to a private counseling room, prescribed and provided her with emergency contraception, and gave her a glass of water to take the medication.  After talking with the pharmacist, the patient agreed to have the pharmacist call a local Title X clinic where the pharmacist had a preexisting collaborative agreement; she was seen by clinicians there shortly thereafter.

As illustrated, pharmacists are an integral component to the patient care process.  The authors write about how pharmacists are often stereotyped as offering little direct patient contact, but note the immense impact that they can have in providing timely and face-to-face accurate health information to clients:

Dismiss pharmacists and you miss out on opportunities to provide better and more accessible reproductive health care.  Many newly sexually active youths have not yet been seen by a medical provider but can and do walk into pharmacies.  Private counseling rooms can and have been built.  Youth- and adult-friendly, evidence-based reproductive health information and consumer education portals and care can comprehensively be provided.

The author cites how pharmacists are an irreplaceable health resource for patients due to their:

        •  Extended weekend availability.
        • Ability to engage as consultant partners or as professional staff members/employees in reproductive health clinics and school-based health centers.
        • Potential to initiate hormonal contraception for women without ready access to a medical provider.
        • Ability to stock free or low-cost contraceptives acquired from local clinics or by the national medication discount program, a grant designed for patients of Federally Qualified Health Centers.
        • Ability to provide Depo-Provera™ and HPV Gardasil™  injections after initial evaluation by a medical clinician.
        • Development of youth-friendly pharmacies to help youth access objective reproductive health information and to help facilitate medical referrals.
The article also points out that schools graduate pharmacists who not only have an extensive knowledge of medications, but also an excellent knowledge base of prevention-based interventions, chronic disease medication management, management of patient health behaviors and patient counseling/education. 
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