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Berenbrok LA, Gabriel N, Coley KC, Hernandez I. Evaluation of Frequency of Encounters With Primary Care Physicians vs Visits to Community Pharmacies Among Medicare Beneficiaries. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(7):e209132. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.9132
How often do Medicare beneficiaries who actively access health care services visit community pharmacies compared with primary care physicians?
Among the 681 456 active Medicare beneficiaries included in this nationwide cross-sectional study, the median number of visits to community pharmacies was significantly higher than encounters with primary care physicians (13 vs 7).
These findings suggest that community pharmacists are accessible health care professionals with frequent opportunities to deliver preventive care and chronic disease management services in collaboration with primary care physicians.
The shift toward value-based care has placed emphasis on preventive care and chronic disease management services delivered by multidisciplinary health care teams. Community pharmacists are particularly well positioned to deliver these services due to their accessibility.
To compare the number of patient visits to community pharmacies and the number of encounters with primary care physicians among Medicare beneficiaries who actively access health care services.
Design, Setting, and Participants
This cross-sectional study analyzed a 5% random sample of 2016 Medicare beneficiaries from January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2016 (N = 2 794 078). Data were analyzed from October 23, 2019, to December 20, 2019. Medicare Part D beneficiaries who were continuously enrolled and had at least 1 pharmacy claim and 1 encounter with a primary care physician were included in the final analysis (n = 681 456). Those excluded from the study were patients who were not continuously enrolled in Part D until death, those with Part B skilled nursing claims, and those with Part D mail-order pharmacy claims.
We conducted analyses for the overall sample and for subgroups defined by demographics, region of residence, and clinical characteristics.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Outcomes included the number of visits to community pharmacies and encounters with primary care physicians. Unique visits to the community pharmacy were defined using a 13-day window between individual prescription drug claims. Kruskal-Wallis tests were used to compare the medians for the 2 outcomes.
A total of 681 456 patients (mean [SD] age, 72.0 [12.5] years; 418 685 [61.4%] women and 262 771 [38.6%] men) were included in the analysis; 82.2% were white, 9.6% were black, 2.4% were Hispanic, and 5.7% were other races/ethnicities. Visits to the community pharmacy outnumbered encounters with primary care physicians (median [interquartile range (IQR)], 13 [9-17] vs 7 [4-14]; P < .001). The number of pharmacy visits was significantly larger than the number of primary care physician encounters for all subgroups evaluated except for those with acute myocardial infarction (median [IQR], 15 [12-19] vs 14 [7-26]; P = .60 using a 13-day window). The difference in the number of pharmacy and primary care physician encounters was larger in rural areas (median [IQR], 14 [10-17] vs 5 [2-11]; P < .001) than in metropolitan areas (median [IQR], 13 [8-17] vs 8 [4-14]; P < .001). In all 50 states and in all but 9 counties, the number of community pharmacy visits was larger than the number of encounters with primary care physicians.
Conclusions and Relevance
This cross-sectional study suggests that community pharmacists are accessible health care professionals with frequent opportunities to interact with community-dwelling patients. Primary care physicians should work collaboratively with community pharmacists, who can assist in the delivery of preventive care and chronic disease management.
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