Building a Coalition of Change — One Pharmacy at a Time

By Benjamin Waldrum

It’s transformation that Megan Smith, Pharm.D., an assistant professor in the UAMS College of Pharmacy Department of Pharmacy Practice, hopes to accelerate across the state. Community pharmacists have built impactful community outreach and continue to innovate health care service delivery. Sustainable health care models are needed to support pharmacist-delivered vital patient care services.

“Community pharmacies are the ideal place for change because we see patients all the time, and we know them really well,” Smith said. “There is so much value in a pharmacy beyond the product, so how do we show that and collect data to effect wide-scale change?”

This past November, Smith appeared on the Catalyst Pharmacy Podcast, a nationally known, industry-wide podcast hosted by PioneerRx, a pharmacy software company. It was a great opportunity for Smith to discuss everything UAMS is doing to help recognize and utilize community pharmacies better.

Smith said that through UAMS, pharmacies across the state have a good relationship with academia — something that isn’t as common elsewhere. Not only can it help pharmacies with information, but it can also quantify and explain what the changes mean and how they can help.

“The partnership pharmacies can have with academia is huge,” Smith said. “How did we get from dispensing pills in the basement at hospitals to rounding with doctors? The key is partnering with academia.”

So far, that partnership is already returning results.

In 2017, Arkansas community pharmacists joined with the Arkansas Pharmacists Association to form the Arkansas Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network (CPESN). It is part of the national CPESN USA. Smith helped facilitate the effort, advise the group and continues to serve as their appointed lead network facilitator.

In 2020, Smith helped kick-start Flip the Pharmacy, a practice transformation program providing coaches, resources and support that walks pharmacies step-by-step on how to change.

That same year, the Arkansas CPESN received a two-year, $77,600 grant from the Community Pharmacy Foundation to participate in the program with 24 other states. The College of Pharmacy provides in-kind support, including Smith’s time. Additional partners providing in-kind support are PioneerRx and the Arkansas Pharmacists Association.

To make the process stick, Smith spends a lot of time at different pharmacies across the state, encouraging communication and cooperation.

“I’m not tied to one place — my practice area is everywhere,” she said.

She’s also an advocate for changing how pharmacy colleges educate students. There’s value in training with students at rotation sites so that they can learn about pharmacies as they are now, Smith said, helping them to adjust to the field more quickly.

There are many components to how any pharmacy works, including being a business. Some days Smith says she feels like she has “one foot keeping doors open and one foot trying to implement change.” It’s a delicate line, but one she’s comfortable treading, and the work is paying off.

“We’ve been able to make a lot of strides already, and that gets me excited,” she said.