Train Your Pharmacy Team as Community Health Workers

Why It’s Valuable To Train Your Pharmacy Team as Community Health Workers

Pharmacies have been trying to increase health outcomes for patients along with other health professionals.

That’s why there’s an emerging trend of pharmacies training their staff to become community health workers (CHWs). Cross-training pharmacy technicians helps them give patients better care and address things outside of medicine, such as social determinants of health, that can affect their health. This complements pharmacy services by employing CHWs to focus on forces outside of medicine that can affect health, and have a big impact on people’s lives.

CHW Core Competencies

Find out all about what the CHW Core Competencies are, CHW roles, CHW careers, how to cross-train your staff, and how to get state certifications for the CHWs on your team

Why Pharmacies Make Sense for CHWs

Pharmacies are a great place for CHWs because they’re already a trusted resource in many communities, especially those that lack easy access to doctors.

Some pharmacies are hiring new CHWs to do outreach, and others are cross-training their staff in new skills that emphasize new skills, such as assessing patients’ needs and linking them with resources and services. CHW training also gives pharmacy staff skills for educating patients in health topics and patient advocacy.

Some rural or underserved areas have limited access to healthcare providers. The pharmacy might be the closest or only provider around. Having a team of people trained in CHW skills can increase the impact of a small pharmacy on the people in the community.

Pharmacy CHW Training Programs

CHWTraining has been training pharmacy staff in CHW skills in an effort to increase services in some areas. Here are two additional examples that have shown positive impact.

One pilot program cross-trained 23 pharmacy professionals, including technicians, as CHWs through a 13-week course on CHW core competencies offered by a state university. Post-course evaluations showed positive responses, with participants appreciating learning the CHW role, gaining new skills, and awareness of additional tools and resources. Participants reported making 47 referrals to chronic disease programs and community resources.

McKesson supported 120 scholarships for certified pharmacy technicians to participate in a 16-week CHW training program. The interactive training tailored to the pharmacy setting allows technicians to advance their careers and provide differentiated services like patient assessments, referrals, and augmenting pharmacist services.

Benefits of Training Pharmacy Techs as CHWs

In some states, pharmacies can offer expanded health services. They can prescribe drugs or devices and may be recognized as Medicaid healthcare providers. Because CHWs in some states are reimbursable, pharmacies can file for reimbursement for their services.

People who work in pharmacies, like pharmacists, student pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians, are already very helpful to their communities. By giving them extra training to become community health workers (CHWs), they can offer even more services to the people they serve. This extra training allows them to go beyond their usual pharmacy duties and provide things that can really benefit their patients’ health.

Research shows CHWs in pharmacies can address health equity issues, enhance services, and support value-based care models by connecting patients to resources for non-medical factors impacting health. CHW training equips pharmacy personnel with skills to conduct health assessments, provide education, facilitate insurance enrollment, and advocate for disadvantaged communities.

How to Implement Training

Everyone benefits from being trained in some community health knowledge. Here are a few examples from real life programs that might work for you if you’re thinking about bringing CHW training to your pharmacy team:

  • Some pharmacy team members should receive CHW training, but all pharmacy staff learn about the CHW role. The trained CHWs can take the lead in engaging with patients and connecting them to other services. 
  • One pharmacy technician receives CHW training and works with a team of different healthcare professionals. The technician’s responsibilities can expand over time to lend more support to pharmacists.
  • A pharmacist is trained as a CHW and uses those skills when providing direct care to patients. The pharmacist updates patient forms to ask about social factors that can affect health, like social determinants of health, and provides resources during appointments.

Those who work in pharmacies, like pharmacists and technicians, are already important members of their communities and can have a big impact on public health. Training them as CHWs could be very helpful for patients, especially those who have trouble with medication adherence or health disparities.

Studies have shown that training pharmacy technicians as CHWs is a promising idea, and the research supports it. For the best results, make sure all pharmacy staff should understand what a CHW is and how they function. This includes pharmacy managers, who need to support the program. 

Overall, training pharmacy staff as CHWs can be a valuable asset. It allows them to use their skills to help patients stay healthy and take their medications by building stronger relationships with them.

Online Learning: Beginner’s Guide

This guide is designed to help you develop a solid foundation for a successful e-learning strategy that will support your community health workers and give them the tools to serve your community.