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Why Is It Taking So Long?

Harold E. Cohen, RPh
Editor-in-Chief



2/20/2013

US Pharm. 2013;38(2):1.

Throughout the long, illustrious history of pharmacy, pharmacists have played a key role in this country’s health care delivery system by preparing and delivering quality pharmaceuticals that have saved and prolonged the lives of countless patients. During those many years, they have performed their duties in the shadow of other health care professionals, oftentimes without receiving the same kind of professional recognition and status. Maybe it was because the profession of pharmacy evolved as more of a business than a profession. Unfortunately, for many patients, pharmacists were associated more with the commercial environment in which they worked than with their professional abilities. But the days of the mom-and-pop drugstore and the business image that it conjures up are quickly vanishing. The new image of today’s pharmacist is that of a well-educated individual looking for a more professional setting in which to practice. Pharmacists are seeking the same professional recognition as other well-respected health care colleagues. While that day of recognition is surely coming, why is it taking so long?

It’s been over 2 years since the U.S. Public Health Service released a report providing a “rationale and compelling discussion to support health reform through pharmacists delivering expanded patient care services.” The report explains that the federal sector has already implemented a health care delivery model in which a physician-pharmacist collaboration improves patient outcomes, promotes patient involvement, increases cost efficiency, and reduces demands on the current health care system. Even U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD, MBA, has endorsed the report, saying that it “provides the evidence health leaders and policy makers need to support evidence-based models of cost effective patient care that utilizes the expertise and contributions of our [nation’s] pharmacists as an essential part of the healthcare team.”

There are four basic tenets to the report. First is that pharmacists should be integrated as health care providers among other health care professionals—a step already in play; second, that pharmacists must be recognized as health care providers through legislation and policy; third, that pharmacists must be compensated for their services in a manner commensurate with the level of service they provide; and fourth, that pharmacists’ services must be in line with upcoming health care reform goals.

So here we are 2 years later, and not much has happened. It continues to amaze me that despite the fact that pharmacists in the federal sector have successfully implemented these principles, the private sector is still struggling with the concept. Some of the blame has to be shared by the profession itself. Pharmacists in the private sector must start to embrace such program designs and let their elected officials know they are ready to fulfill their new roles. Despite the support from such high-ranking officials as the surgeon general, many legislators apparently must still be convinced that the proposed health care model can work and that they must be ready to endorse and fund such a program.  

The final provisions of the Affordability Care Act will kick in within a year or so. There is no better time for pharmacists to step up to the plate. The waiting game is over and time is running out.

To comment on this article, contact editor@uspharmacist.com.

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