Pharmacists Help People with Diabetes Post-Surgery

A study finds adding a pharmacist to a surgery team can lead to better medical outcomes and lower rates of hospital readmission.



Researchers are always looking for a way to curb the risk of complications from surgery and reduce hospital readmissions, especially for people with diabetes. They may have found a new partner in pharmacists.

A recent study conducted at the Kaiser Permanente Sunnyside Medical Center in Portland, Oregon, found that introducing a pharmacist into a patient’s diabetes management team pre-surgery and post-surgery led to better blood sugar control and surgery outcomes in study participants with diabetes. The study did not appear to make a distinction between Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes.

The study compared diabetes management among two groups – patients with diabetes who participated in a glycemic control program before and after surgery and those with diabetes who only participated in the program post-surgery. Glycemic pharmacists in the Portland hospital worked closely with the rest of the medical team to tailor medication plans for study participants.

Those who were enrolled in the program on both sides of their surgery had fewer complications and better blood glucose control post-surgery. They were 69% less likely to experience hypoglycemia three days after being discharged, and 33% less likely to be readmitted to the hospital in a three-month period post-surgery.

Researchers found that surgeons and anesthesia providers often don’t have the expertise or time to dedicate to ensure patients with diabetes are controlling their blood sugar levels after surgery. Also, many patients may go a month post-surgery before a follow-up appointment with a surgeon or a general practitioner. Pharmacists can bridge the gap and provide that individualized care, says Dr. Scott Drab, an Associate Professor of Pharmacy and Therapeutics at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine.

“[A pharmacist] is another healthcare professional well-versed on diabetes who understands medications and can aggressively monitor patients,” says Dr. Drab in an interview with Insulin Nation. “They are highly motivated to ensure adequate inpatient glycemic control while trying to reduce overall cost of complications.”

Any added member to the medical team who can reduce the risk of hospital readmission is a welcome one.

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Travis served as a staff writer for Insulin Nation and Type 2 Nation in 2015. Previously, he was a staff writer for Insight, a high school newspaper, as well as a copywriter for The Emersonian, Emerson's yearbook.