Building the Capacity of South Carolina Community Pharmacies to Intervene on the Social Determinants of Health

Social determinants of health (SDOH) (such as stress, social isolation, food insecurity) can have a major impact on the overall well-being of individuals. However, these factors can be complex, and establishing trust is necessary to address the SDOH barriers that individuals may face in an effective and appropriate way.

For this reason, community pharmacies represent an important, but under-utilized, resource for intervening on the SDOH barriers that affect their communities. Their unique settings organically foster relationships with patients and community members, often through local ownership and maintaining the same key pharmacy staff over time, making it possible for workflows to include quality relationship building with patients and their families.

Community pharmacies are an asset for providing value-based care and serve as critical connections to health services and information for our state’s residents, especially in rural areas and during a health crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

To explore innovative ways of amplifying the role community pharmacies have in improving the health of their communities, the Center for Community Health Alignment has partnered with the Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network (CPESN®) and CPESN® South Carolina (CPESN® SC) to create and implement a SDOH program for community pharmacy patients.

Innovation

Our project trains community pharmacy teams to identify key SDOH, better understand the impacts they have on health and well-being, and then intervene on those social determinants to improve patient health. By building the capacity of community pharmacies to address SDOH, our project establishes and is testing formal processes for many of the activities that community pharmacies are already doing. These activities leverage their experience, skills, and social trust to improve the health of their patients. The formal processes involve identifying patients’ SDOH needs through a brief survey, referring them to appropriate community resources based on the needs identified, and following up with the patient to confirm whether they were able to connect to those resources.

Goals

To build the capacity of community pharmacies to address SDOH barriers experienced by their patients, we aim to:

  1. Identify facilitators and barriers to community pharmacies implementing SDOH processes into their workflows.
  2. Develop and refine best practices for implementing SDOH approaches that align with existing pharmacy workflows.
  3. Evaluate the impact of SDOH work conducted in pharmacies in terms of project implementation.
  4. Explore what model(s) could be used to reimburse pharmacies for SDOH work to promote sustainability.

Current Focus

Based on learnings gained through the first phase of this project, we are in the process of finalizing a set of best practices for implementing SDOH work in community pharmacy settings. Additionally, we are meeting with national leaders in these efforts to incorporate what has been learned and incorporate their input into our work.

With this foundation, we will continue engaging with key stakeholders to identify further opportunities to formally support community pharmacies in this work, building on their strength and mutual trust to help community members address social needs.

If you are interested in learning more about this project or partnering with us to continue to test this innovative approach, we welcome your input! Please contact Alex Scott at aescott@email.sc.edu.