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.
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