Happy New Year! As I reflect on the past year and look forward to 2005, it occurs to me that pharmacists have many reasons to be optimistic. I am concerned, however, that my students and I continue to hear too many pharmacists complain about the challenges they face. To be sure, pharmacists practicing in hospitals and community settings are constantly under pressure to "do more with less,"but we continue to make progress.
Patient safety and quality improvement have remained a priority for health systems practice, and, coupled with national quality goals, hospitals can now achieve greater reimbursement for improving quality in specific situations. I am encouraged about the precedent, and pharmacists should be able to contribute to increasing reimbursement and get recognition for doing so. Expanded enrollment and the creation of more schools of pharmacy continue to produce very well trained pharmacists. Although the pharmacist shortage remains a challenge to overcome, it has stabilized and even improved in some geographic areas.
Findings of studies continue to be published that reflect the value of pharmacy practices to improve drug therapy outcomes and reduce costs. I have watched my staff members increase their influence and effectiveness as they care for their patients. Similarly, during my travels across North Carolina and the rest of the country, I have seen numerous examples of creativity and innovation evolve within pharmacy practice. Even though the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA) was passed late that year, we have learned of the challenges and opportunities it has created for pharmacy practitioners. As you know, one of the most significant provisions of the MMA enables pharmacists to be reimbursed for cognitive services related to chronic disease management. Hallelujah!
We continue to have a lot of work to do. We must embrace the MMA, monitor the CMS proposals related to its implementation, and provide comments each time we are given that opportunity to ensure that it enables us to serve our patients well. We need to strive to constantly improve our practices and procedures to create a safer medication-use environment. We need to be advocates for the use of new technologies, such as infusion pumps with decision-support software, provider order entry, electronic prescribing, bar-code technology applications, and others that will enable improved patient care. Finally, we need to more consistently counsel patients (inpatients and outpatients) regarding their use of medications to increase compliance and improve outcomes.
By now, many of us have made New Year's resolutions. Let me suggest that each of us add several of the following as issues that we commit ourselves to during 2005:
Please feel free to add your own resolutions directed toward your profession. We need each other to achieve our mission. Happy New Year!