The United States loves more on healthcare than any other First World nation. With annual expenditures at nearly twenty percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), America outspends the Netherlands, the next highest spender, by more than six percent. Why is Uncle Sam such a spendthrift when it comes to healthcare? There are many reasons. Perhaps the most expensive one is its citizens high-rate of chronic health problems.

The Numbers

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about half of the 117 million adults living in America have one or more chronic medical conditions. Because these issues must often be managed over an entire lifetime, they are incredibly expensive. While medical procedures and treatments are sometimes needed, most of those costs are spent at the pharmacy. An astonishing 91 percent of all prescriptions filled are for chronic diseases.

The Role Pharmacists Play

As the largest generation in American history, the Baby Boomers, enters its golden years, chronic medical issues will grow increasingly common. Although doctors obviously play a vital role in treatment and management, pharmacists are arguably even more instrumental because they dispense the medications that are costing us a fortune. With that in mind, here are five ways pharmacists can help make healthcare more effective and affordable.

1. Managing Medication: Prescription pills are only effective when people use them as instructed. Because they dispense these medications, pharmacists generally know who's taking their pills and who is not. As such, they can easily speak with the patient and encourage them to take their medicine as needed. These local interventions could make an impact impact on the health of the nation by decreasing the number of complications from long-term medical issues.

2. Preventative Care: Whether the problem is diabetes or heart disease, an apothecary can recommend screening services for at-risk patients. Early detection and treatment may help prevent some people from developing a long-term illness. At the very least, it will help them get the treatment they need before it's too late.

3. Adjust Drug Doses: When a person is taking either too much or not enough of a drug, it will not work as intended. An experienced pharmacist can make minor adjustments to dosage discrepancies as needed by the patient.

4. Dispense Information: Sometimes people need to be encouraged to take their pills as instructed. Because a doctor is not in charge of actually dispensing these medications, an apothecary is the person to what most folks speak about their drug regimen. When they fail to take their pills as directed, a pharmacist can easily intervene and recommend strict adherence to the treatment plan. He or she can do this by providing encouraging information about the drug and the positive outcomes other users have experienced.

5. Team-Based Care: Numerous studies have confirmed that patients are less likely to require frequent visits to their personal physician when they have an active, engaged apothecary who plays an important role in their long-term care. When the experienced medical professional answers questions, gives advice, and encourages people to take their pills, they are far less likely to visit the doctor's office.

Pharmacists can play a vital role in cutting medical costs and improving the quality of care for people with chronic health conditions.