The face of healthcare in the United States is changing – and one of the most visual changes in recent decades has been the steady rise to prominence of advanced practice nurses (APNs), nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs). In fact, according to an article in the Nursing Journal, as of 2016, there are 104,050 PAs and 150,230 APNs now actively practicing across the country – and these numbers are expected to rise by 30 percent by 2024. This rise, coupled with the growing number of states that are granting prescriptive authority to these healthcare professionals, is causing pharmaceutical companies to realize the need to work more closely with this particular group.
A matter of access
Part of the reason that PAs and APNs should be more of interest of pharmaceutical company is simply a matter of accessibility. Pharmaceutical Commerce notes that there are many factors driving the increased utilization of these professionals, including healthcare reform efforts, increased patient loads, a growing segment of the population that is aging, and a decreasing number of doctors.
Due to today’s fast-paced medical environment, doctors themselves are not the only ones who require up-to-date medical product information. Pharma Voice notes that while gaining a access to a physician is not always possible, it can sometimes be more effective to communicate with the PAs and APNs that work with them in medical offices and hospitals. However, it is not just a matter of access; these healthcare professionals are becoming more important in their own right.
A growing demand for pharmaceutical education
An article from the website Pharmacy Executive reports that pharmacy companies have perhaps been a bit slow to realize the increasing importance of APNs and PAs in diagnosis and prescription. Louise McDevitt, a nurse practitioner, notes that while her experiences with the pharmaceutical industry have been positive overall, pharmaceutical representatives, especially those who are new to the field, fail to understand the significance of the role of NPs in healthcare.
While this is beginning to change, a successful relationship between Pharma overall and PAs NPs, and APNs requires an understanding of the needs these medical providers have — and what they are looking for from pharmaceutical representatives. McDevitt says that she values interactions with pharmaceutical professionals that are not based on hardline sales talks but that provide her with the kind of information and education on medications that she needs to better manage her patients’ conditions. Educational handouts, pamphlets and other informational media are particularly valuable, especially if they are designed to be shared with patients to encourage self-efficacy and more effective health management.
Pharmacy meets this demand
Pharmaceutical Commerce notes that the industry is becoming aware of this growing demand for pharmaceutical education on the part of PAs and APNs – and has made moves to meet this need. Medicals affairs professionals across the country are now engaging in more concerted efforts to support the diagnostic and prescriptive authority of these healthcare providers by providing them with the knowledge and training they need to confidently treat a wide variety of both chronic and acute conditions.
The site goes on to say that this complex information can include such important subjects as drug-drug interactions, adverse events, side effects, answering off-label use questions and label changes, just to name a few. Pharmaceutical companies such as EMD Serono, Sanofi-Aventis, and Hoffman-La Roche are hiring nurse educators to work with PAs, NPs, and APNs who are creating complex drug regimens to care for their patients. The companies believe that this investment of time and resources will pay off in the chance to both develop a significant relationships with these providers as well as positively impacting patients’ health.
PAs and APNs are playing an increasingly pivotal role in the American healthcare delivery system and experts agree that this role will only become more important in the future. In response to these changes, many pharmaceutical industries need to meet the demand and provide support and education for these healthcare professionals to enhance their pharmaceutical knowledge – and ultimately to positively influence outcomes for patients throughout the system.