Dr. Michael Avaltroni

Dean of the Fairleigh Dickinson University School of Pharmacy & Health Scien



“Because we live in a “soundbite” generation, it has become critically important to assure that healthcare practitioners can communicate effectively, build trust, garner respect, and convey that respect to their patients.”

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A recent published study described how in 1950, medical knowledge was on pace to double every 50 years. In 2020, this rate is projected to be 73 days. Healthcare providers, then, have at once a huge set of challenges—and an even larger set of opportunities.

Adapting to this new healthcare paradigm means preparing future practitioners to be something they’ve never been before. There was a time not so long ago when the healthcare practitioner, was trained to  have encyclopedic knowledge of facts— about a disease state, the physiologic underpinnings of how the human body works, and the mechanisms of action for given pharmacotherapies. Today, and more so with each year into the future, the new practitioner needs to understand how to utilize  complex concepts and apply them to individual patients with an understanding about how that patient’s genetics, history, social and economic status and many other complex factors can be navigated to afford that individual the best possible chance for overall health.

We often talk about the need to educate future  healthcare practitioners around five core values that apply regardless of the discipline of practice:

Think, Lead, Communicate, Advocate, and Implement. These five non-negotiable attributes are the essentials for a practitioner to deliver highquality care amidst a complex, changing, evolving environment that poses constraints, challenges with access to care, unprecedented knowledge growth, and complex issues surrounding economic
and social limitations.

The attribute “Think”—that is, thinking critically— is an unflagging hallmark of health professionals everywhere, but the new healthcare practitioner must also understand how to leverage technology. This includes tools that provide everything from complex genetic profiling and sequencing, to machine learning algorithms that determine best courses of drug therapy, to how to evolve and develop new treatment methods against diseases once thought incurable.

A practitioner’s ability to “Lead” is an equally important skill. Patients need a healthcare team whose  members lead efforts to advance care and understand their role on that patient-centered team. A few  short years ago, Hepatitis C was managed through a lifetime course of treatment. Today, we are seeing our clinical pharmacy faculty and their students leading efforts to manage its treatment by integrating  themselves into patient care and ensuring patients are compliant with their medication regimen, are managing any side effects, are doing necessary follow up, and achieving the outcome of full remission. As leaders, these individuals are having a life-saving impact on patients who otherwise would have had little hope beyond a lifetime of disease management.

Advocacy is of critical and central importance in the new healthcare landscape. As costs rise, so do difficult decisions: ones around reimbursement, payment, and access. Health professionals must advocate not only for their patients but for their professions as well. For example, envision a world where a person could have a chronic disease managed by their pharmacist, who works at a community pharmacy alongside a dietician, social worker, and other practitioners who provide comprehensive care with immediate access on a walk-in basis. 93% of Americans live within 5 miles of a pharmacy, so imagine how much impact this statistic could have if pharmacists can successfully advocate to gain greater access as providers.

Communication is key in the new healthcare landscape for a multitude of reasons, including the changing ways people communicate, society’s access to information (and misinformation), and the need for patients to understand what they need to do to adhere to treatment plans and improve their outcomes. It is now commonplace for patients to come in with their own diagnoses based upon what they’ve read online. Because we live in a “soundbite” generation, it has become critically important to assure that healthcare practitioners can communicate effectively, build trust, garner respect, and convey that respect to their patients. Sometimes a subtle or unspoken message from patient to practitioner is the difference between a positive and negative result. In a similar vein, we must understand what effective and “comfortable” communication—in email conversations, telemedicine, and others—looks like across cultures, populations, and generations.

To aggregate all of the skills, nuances, traits, and details of each of these into a plan is to “Implement.” The advent of personalized medicine means building a customizable and effective care plan that assures cost-effective and high-quality outcomes, producing quality of life for all patients across the continuum of care.

Gone are the days of a one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare. We hope that preparing tomorrow’s practitioners to face challenges and turn them into new and exciting opportunities will continue to advance patient care to the benefit of all.

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