During the 2022 TSE Business Program, NACDS Chair Brian Nightengale, RPh, PhD, said his early experience was moonlighting at independents and chain pharmacies, and it is those experiences that shaped his passion for the profession. Currently president of Amerisource Bergen’s Good Neighbor Pharmacy, he said, “As we meet here today, we look ahead to our continued emergence from this pandemic. Retail pharmacies and suppliers are working together to permanently redefine how we serve our patients and customers, and NACDS will continue to be a strong catalyst for this transformation.”

“We see an expanded role within the country’s health and wellness ecosystem,” Dr. Nightengale stated. “To succeed in this transformation,” he said, “we will remain focused on the key priorities.” His speech focused on one of these: ensuring solutions to achieve fair and adequate pharmacy reimbursements for the products pharmacists dispense and the care services they provide.

“Many of us know that the year-over-year downward trend of reimbursement is simply no longer sustainable. NACDS has acted courageously to stand up for equitable reimbursement, and we will continue our steadfast advocacy with stakeholders at both the state and federal levels to act on this critical issue.

The second NACDS priority, he said, is to “permanently expand pharmacists’ scope of practice and pharmacies’ scope of business. During this pandemic, retail pharmacies have proven beyond any doubt that they are essential sites of care that can do so much more when allowed to do so.

“We are making progress” he observed. The Equitable Community Access to Pharmacist Services Act was introduced in March. When passed, H.R. 7213 will permanently recognize pharmacists as providers and ensure patients’ continued access to pandemic-related care services, he noted.

The third priority, Dr. Nightengale said, is enabling the pharmaceutical industry to take a more active role in meeting the total health and wellness needs of all Americans. “After earning even more patient trust during this pandemic, pharmacies are perfectly positioned as the face of neighborhood healthcare: Pharmacies administered over 250 million doses of covid 19 vaccine and are actively participating in test-to-treat initiatives for the covid-19 oral antivirals.

Through these essential interactions,” Dr. Nightengale remarked, “patients have come to rely on pharmacies as their community healthcare hubs.

“We also know that customer expectations are fueling innovation in pharmacy, innovation to meet patient needs and bridge healthcare inequities. Pharmacies are keeping pace, for example, by offering ecommerce options for prescriptions refills and new ways to connect with providers. We know that nearly 40% of patients have received virtual care through telehealth already in 2022. It’s safe say that more progress has been made in in virtual health these past 2 years than ever before.

The fourth priority for NACDS, he said, is fostering collaboration between pharmacies and suppliers on alternative ways to reach health and wellness consumers. “Large, medium, and small suppliers are making great strides to be more efficient within the supply chain, and we are seeing breakthroughs, ordering, routing, and delivery, with many suppliers deploying digital-ordering enhancements, odd-weighted processes, and real-time tracking.”

Current headlines convey additional examples of how NACDS members are innovating through new service models and services, Dr. Nightengale observed. He cited such examples as providing nationwide access to COVID PCR testing, offering Paxlovid to eligible patients on a test-to-treat basis, and opening primary care clinics to assist patients with one-stop healthcare, physical therapy, and nutritional services, and implementing things in the telehealth world such as diabetes management programs.

“These are all just great examples of how our members are working with the supplier community to expand the role retail pharmacy in this ecosystem,” Dr. Nightengale stated.

Utilizing technology to further drive patient engagement, he said, is another goal. “We are seeing pharmacies actively connecting with their patients through digital channels to market their clinical services, introduce new and innovative products, and engage their community in entirely new ways. Pharmacy consumers also are increasingly turning to online channels like social media, mobile apps, and Google search to engage with their pharmacy just like they do with their other retail experiences,” he continued “So, let’s capitalize on the opportunities to collaborate, share ideas, and forge new relationships.

“As we build out the NACDS 2023 strategy, we remain active now in advancing consumer-empowered, community-focused health and wellness initiatives.” One month ago, for example, NACDS submitted recommendations to the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. The recommendations, which came out of a series of NACDS-led listening sessions, involved traditional public issues such as H.R. 7213, but “equally important, our recommendations also addressed core health and wellness issues, such as food as medicine, chronic disease prevention, and social determinants of health.”

“In these ways,” he said, “NACDS remains a force greater than its individual parts, which is vitally important during times of radical change.”

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