A partnership approach can clearly improve efforts to control high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular problems, Carter said.
"Medication compliance accounts for only 15 to 20 percent of blood pressure control problems," he said. "Most of the time, medications are not used in the right doses and right combinations to get the job done."
And what works for blood pressure control could be applied to other chronic medical problems, Carter said. "There have been positive studies in diabetes, high cholesterol and asthma, among others," he said.
Helene Levens Lipton, a professor of health policy at the University of California, San Francisco, said that doctor-pharmacist partnerships are becoming more important as the population of aging Americans increases.
"We're facing a major crisis in the form of a primary care physician shortage, so we need to look at new models," said Lipton, who wrote an accompanying editorial.
Though the concept is not new, "lots of physicians now are looking to allied health professionals to perform activities they just don't have time to do," she said. "A physician would really like to have a pharmacist there to help, showing how to save money on high blood pressure medication and making sure you are complying with the medications that are prescribed."
But partnership arrangements "are not going to happen without some kind of incentive," Lipton said. The most obvious incentive, she said, would be higher Medicare and Medicaid payments for medical professionals who set up such partnerships.
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