Magazine article Drug Topics

Healthcare Provider Status for Pharmacists Is Long Overdue

Magazine article Drug Topics

Healthcare Provider Status for Pharmacists Is Long Overdue

Article excerpt

VIEWPOINT

Pharmacists are often underutilized because they are not recognized as healthcare providers under the Social Security Act. As a result pharmacists cannot be fully compensated by Medicare and Medicaid for all their capabilities, which if completely incorporated could improve patient health outcomes.

That's why it is heartening to read U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin's letter supporting the conclusions of Improving Patient and Heath System Outcomes through Advanced Pharmacy Practice - A Report to the U.S. Surgeon General, 2011. Dr. Benjamin agrees with the report's finding that "recognition of pharmacists as healthcare providers, clinicians, and an essential part of the healthcare team is appropriate given the level of care they provide in many healthcare settings."

The Surgeon General makes the case for this designation by pointing out that pharmacists currently work with physicians and clinicians under collaborative practice agreements in 43 states and in federal health programs in "performing patient assessments and developing therapeutic plans; utilizing authorities to initiate, adjust, or discontinue medications; ordering, interpreting, and monitoring appropriate laboratory tests; providing care coordination and other healthcare services for wellness and prevention; and developing partnerships with the patients for ongoing and follow-up care."

As the nation's chief health advocate and doctor, the Surgeon General certainly crosses the independence and credibility threshold because her words carry weight. For example, the tobacco industry is still reeling from the fallout (i.e., major class action lawsuits, stringent regulations, reduction in the percentage of smokers, etc.) that occurred from the warning regarding the dangers associated with smoking from U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry in 1964. Hopefully, history repeats itself in our case.

With this federally recognized designation, pharmacists could finally be recognized for the valuable work they do and for their dedication to their patients. When I engage independent community pharmacists on this issue, they welcome the additional responsibility and the extra scrutiny that recognition brings, because they know the tangible results they can deliver. For example, our members' patient-focused business model is ideally situated to put a big dent in the up to $290 billion a year that is wasted on care due to the improper use of medications. …

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