Editor's Note: Health Care Reform

MARCH 01, 2009
Fred M. Eckel, RPh, MS

Mr. Eckel is a professor and director of the Office of Practice Development and Education at the School of Pharmacy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In December 2008, 12 pharmacy organizations and corporations issued Pharmacy Principles for Health Care Reform. Why was this document developed? Most of us, providers and patients alike, realize that our current system is not working. A former boss once told me that the only time when you can really make a major change in a system or program is when nobody feels that they have to defend the existing system because they are getting something out of it.

I think we have reached this situation with health care. Although a few providers or corporations may still be getting all they want, they are certainly in the minority! Most of us are not getting enough to make us defend or fight to keep what we have. So, professionals are not going to resist health care reform. This lack of resistance, coupled with a commitment by government leadership to introduce reform, means that change is likely. Pharmacists have much to contribute to a reformed system, so we must make sure that the new system recognizes and incorporates opportunities for pharmacists to contribute.

Pharmacy leadership is articulating 3 reform principles:

Reform Principle I: Improve quality and safety of medication use, including coverage and payment for pharmacist- provided patient care services.

Reform Principle II: Ensure patient access to needed medications and pharmacy services, including pharmacist availability to all, with patient choice of provider of medications and patient care services, adequate reimbursement, and no barriers to generic substitution.

Reform Principle III: Promote pharmacy and health information technology interoperability, including access to appropriate patient information.

All pharmacists need to become familiar with these principles and share them as appropriate. Pharmacy leaders will be articulating these principles in Congress. When asked, be ready to communicate your support to your congressional staff. Working together with our leaders and our customers, change is possible. Most of the sponsoring organizations have this document on their Web page?a quick Web search will allow you to review the 3-page document.