The Critical Role of Pharmacists in Supporting the US Health Care System This American Pharmacists Month
Pharmacy Times® interviewed John Beckner, RPh, the senior director of strategic initiatives at the National Community Pharmacy Association (NCPA), on the importance of American Pharmacists Month in acknowledging the critical role of pharmacists in supporting the US health care system.
The discussion included the significance of American Pharmacists Month this year in light of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the role of pharmacists and community pharmacies in distribution of an eventual COVID-19 vaccine, the importance of flu vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ways the COVID-19 pandemic changed the perception of pharmacists and the expanded role they can play in the patient care continuum during and beyond the pandemic.
“Pharmacists have really stepped up and provided essential products and services since the beginning of the pandemic back in early March, and these services include medication therapy management services,” Beckner said. “They have provided those services telephonically, and in some cases virtually. They provided catch-up immunizations for those folks that may not have been able to get vaccinations before they provided testing when testing was available. And they basically really demonstrated to other providers, to patients, and really those outside the profession all the things that they're capable of doing.”
Beckner explained that he hopes the expanded role that pharmacists have played out of necessity during the pandemic will continue into the future.
“So, I know certain laws and regulations have been relaxed to make things more flexible to allow patients to get these services, and hopefully this is going to continue beyond the pandemic. One analogy that I'd like to draw here is, if you remember back in in 2009 with the H1N1 flu, pharmacists were immunizers, and people didn't necessarily think of pharmacists as immunizers. I think that epidemic of H1N1 really served to springboard pharmacists into the public consciousness with regard to immunizations. I think people became a lot more accepting [and] a lot more comfortable [with it]. Physicians became a lot more collaborative with regard to pharmacists providing immunizations after the H1N1 epidemic,” Beckner said.
Beckner also discussed the importance of pharmacists gaining provider status this year and the value of pharmacists in supporting the US health care system.