Patients are satisfied and comfortable with pharmacists conducting Medicare annual wellness visits without a physician present, according to a new UNC study.
Patients are satisfied and comfortable with pharmacists conducting Medicare annual wellness visits without a physician present, according to a new UNC study.

Patients undergoing a Medicare annual wellness visit say they would be satisfied and comfortable with having a clinical pharmacist practitioner working alone conduct the visit rather than having a physician do it, according to a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Having a pharmacist conduct wellness visits frees up physicians to focus on patients’ chronic and acute health conditions.

Study participants ranked the quality of care they received from their clinical pharmacist provider an average of 4.7 with 5 being very satisfied. When asked if they were as comfortable discussing health information with a clinical pharmacist practitioner as they were with a physician, the patients said that they were, averaging a 4.1 on a scale of 1 to 5 where 5 indicated strong agreement. The Journal of Managed Care & Specialty Pharmacy published the study.

A clinical pharmacist practitioner is a licensed pharmacist approved to provide drug-therapy management under the supervision of a licensed physician.

“CPPs may serve as a viable option to expand patient access an care to annual wellness visits with the growing shortage of primary care physicians,” said Betsy Shilliday, Pharm.D., senior author of the study and an associate professor of clinical education at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. “In addition, patients stated that they liked the different perspective the CPP could offer compared to their primary care physician, particularly the focus on medications.”

Shilliday said the study supports the existing evidence of patient satisfaction with a pharmacist conducting an AWV.

“Medicare AWVs offer an opportunity for pharmacists to provide direct patient care focused on preventative health, identify areas for patient interventions and contribute to team-based care,” Shilliday said. “Clinical pharmacist practitioners may serve as a viable option to expand patient access and care with the growing shortage of general practitioners.”

Wellness visits were created in 2011 as part of the Affordable Care Act. Medicare Part B covers an annual visit to the doctor for the purpose of developing or updating a personalized plan to prevent disease and disability. Pharmacists can conduct these visits under a physician’s supervision. The visit includes activities such as administering a health survey, conducting a complete medication review and taking measurements of weight, blood pressure, and cognitive function.

The study, conducted between June 2012 and March 2013, included patients who whose wellness visit was conducted by a clinical pharmacist practitioner accompanied by a physician.  There were 46 participants aged 66 years or older. Fifty-eight percent were female and 87 percent were Caucasian. The margin of error was An unaffiliated pharmacy student then conducted telephone surveys with each participant asking them to rank from one to five their satisfaction with their provider and their comfort level with an unaccompanied clinical pharmacist practitioner providing care in the future.

Authors and Citation

  • Christina H. Sherrill, Pharm.D., is an assistant professor of clinical sciences at High Point University.
  • Jamie Cavanaugh, Pharm.D., is an assistant professor of clinical education at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and a clinical assistant professor of internal medicine at the UNC School of Medicine.
  • Betsy Bryant Shilliday, Pharm.D., is an associate professor of clinical education at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

Sherrill, C. H., Cavanaugh, J., & Shilliday, B. B. (2017). Patient Satisfaction with Medicare Annual Wellness Visits Administered by a Clinical Pharmacist Practitioner. Journal of Managed Care & Specialty Pharmacy, 23(11), 1125-1129. doi:10.18553/jmcp.2017.23.11.1125

Comments are closed.