Pharmacists have traditionally played a background role in medicine. They were the gatekeepers of the pharmaceutical products prescribed by doctors. The advent of mail-order and internet pharmacies, along with requirements from some insurers that patients use these alternatives, has spurred pharmacists to increase interaction with patients. Pharmacy chains now have websites where patients can view their current prescriptions, potential contraindications, side effects to watch out for, and other critical information often not covered during a brief doctor's appointment.
A Master of Science in Medication Therapy Management prepares pharmacists and adjunct professionals with the skills to interact directly with customers. This includes consulting face-to-face with patients about the effective and safe use of medications as well as the combined use of supplements and alternative herbal remedies. Medication Therapy Management is still a new field, but these professionals have been included in Medicare Part D and Medicaid for billing purposes. A closer look at the requirements and benefits of this degree is warranted for any pharmacists looking to expand their practice and strengthen customer loyalty.
What Are the Education Requirements?
The Master of Science curriculum is currently offered on campus and online. The program requires 33 hours of coursework and a three-hour capstone experience. Programs are primarily designed for those with a current practice. Coursework consists of foundations classes and a focus on medications pertaining to each physiological system. There is a strong emphasis throughout the coursework on communication skills and physical assessment. The capstone experience is an oral presentation of the Longitudinal Practice Project, which are the student’s efforts to implement Medication Therapy Management techniques into their practice.
How Will the Degree Benefit Earnings?
As noted, pharmacies have worked to include more cognitive services for patients since the advent of mail-order pharmacies. These efforts have largely been isolated to major chains with the resources and knowledge base to offer these services for free. Independent pharmacists lacked the ability to package and charge for these services.
The primary income benefit is in the adoption of billing for these services by government-regulated insurers. According to Fred Eckel at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, increased income is a given, because medication therapy management is "mentioned throughout the new health care reform law." Confident provision of face-to-face patient consultations is also a method of retaining customers and attracting more through word-of-mouth advertising.
Is Medication Therapy Management a Growing Field?
Research has demonstrated positive contributions to patient outcomes of medication therapy management used in a variety of settings. National pharmacies are currently working to include medication therapy management in a bid to stop the loss of customers to mail-order pharmacies. The old concept of the pharmacist as a type of technician who only works behind the scenes is giving way to the new idea of the pharmacist as first-line source of valuable information for patients. This is partly due to the growth in chronic illness requiring multiple medications for treatment.
A Master of Science in Medication Therapy Management is currently the terminal degree in the field. Pharmacists are using the tools learned in the program to expand income options and remain competitive.
Clint Savage is a freelance blogger who writes about health. Clint urges other aspiring health professionals to look into a degree in pharmacy as a stepping stone to their career.