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INTRODUCTION

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Illustration by George Folz, © 2019 Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System

BACKGROUND

Community pharmacists are the most accessible of all health professionals, a distinction that has led some to dub this segment of pharmacy the “face of neighborhood healthcare.”1–5 The positive impact that community pharmacists have on their patients and communities is evident and widespread within small towns and large cities alike.2,6–10 Community pharmacists promote patient health and well-being by ensuring appropriate, safe, and effective medication use.11 The role of pharmacists in community practice settings continues to expand well beyond the dispensing of prescription medications; this includes health screenings, medication therapy monitoring and management programs, vaccine administration (i.e., immunizations), and medication compounding services all tailored to the needs of individual patients and the communities within which they live.12–14 Readers interested in health screenings and immunizations are encouraged to explore the illustrated cases “Screen” and “Mobilized,” respectively, in Chapter 4 Prevention & Wellness, while those interested in compounding are referred to the illustrated case “Transformation” later in this chapter.

Community pharmacists practice in a diverse array of workplace settings that promote high accessibility to the public. Compared to other health professionals who may provide services by appointment and based on insurance coverage, community pharmacists are often positioned in public spaces such as grocery stores, large chain pharmacies, and independently owned drug stores.15–17 It is somewhat unique that in the same grocery store where consumers shop for their bananas and bread, they can also quickly consult with a highly trained health professional without appointment, proof of insurance, or payment. This accessibility, where anyone can discuss medication-related questions on their schedule and at their convenience, places community pharmacists on the front lines of healthcare delivery.18

There are roughly 310,000 licensed pharmacists in the United States, with over 40% of these individuals practicing in community pharmacy settings.9,19 Thirty-five percent of community pharmacies are independently owned, while 37% are considered larger chain pharmacy corporations. Another 14% of pharmacies are located in supermarkets and 14% are positioned within large retail stores.19 Regardless of practice setting, community pharmacists serve the public as medication experts capable of providing comprehensive services to ensure the safe and effective use of medications.8,20

The impact that community pharmacists have on patient health and wellness cannot be overstated. In the United States, 4.1 billion prescriptions were filled at pharmacies in 2017 alone.21 This equates to nearly one in two Americans having reported using a prescription drug in the past 30 days.22 Among patients aged 60 to 79, prescription medication use increases even further with nearly 84% of patients having filled a recent prescription medication.23 The vast majority of these prescriptions are filled at local pharmacies, with over 90% of prescriptions treating chronic conditions.24,25...

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