Family physician perceptions of the role and value of the clinical pharmacist in the management of patients with type 2 diabetes

Kathryn M. Harmes, Elizabeth Shih, Melissa Plegue, Cameron Shultz, Heidi L. Diez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Clinical pharmacists can help primary care physicians (PCPs) manage medications for patients with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that clinical pharmacist involvement in care can improve outcomes such as glycosylated hemoglobin (A1C), blood pressure and lipid control, and decrease episodes of hypoglycemia. Despite these findings, some PCPs may be slow or disinclined to refer to clinical pharmacists when available. This study addressed PCP perceptions regarding referral to clinical pharmacists and endocrinologists for patients with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes. Methods: Physicians from five family medicine sites were surveyed. Physicians were queried regarding their patterns for patient referral to endocrinologists and/or clinical pharmacists. Clinical contributions and importance of factors to consider when referring were compared between clinical pharmacists and endocrinologists using paired t tests. Results: Fifty physicians responded to the survey, resulting in a response rate of 73.5%. The majority of PCPs indicated that they have referred to endocrinologists (89.5%) and clinical pharmacists (93.5%) for specialty care. PCPs tended to refer to clinical pharmacists sooner and at lower A1C values than to endocrinologists. PCPs also considered multiple medical comorbidities, history of noncompliance with medical recommendations, low reading ability or math skills, complex psychosocial situations, fear of needles, or difficulty affording medications or supplies to be more important when referring patients to clinical pharmacists than endocrinologists. Conclusion: We hypothesized that referrals to a clinical pharmacist or endocrinologist are made with careful consideration of the patients' needs. PCPs reported increased utilization of clinical pharmacists for patients with nonmedical needs, indicating that extra time, education, and psychosocial support provided by the clinical pharmacist is highly valued.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-20
Number of pages6
JournalJACCP Journal of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • diabetes mellitus
  • endocrinologists
  • glycated hemoglobin A
  • pharmacist
  • physician
  • primary care
  • referral and consultation
  • type 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Pharmacy


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