Pharmacists Are Now Recognized as Health Care Providers

Pharmacy Times
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For the first time since Medicare'sinception, pharmacists arefinally being recognized ashealth care providers. Part ofthe Medicare Prescription Drug,Improvement and Modernization Actof 2003 includes proposed rules to regulateMedication Therapy Management(MTM) programs that wouldentitle Medicare beneficiaries access tothese services from pharmacists.

"This is the first time in our nation'shistory that the pharmacist has everbeen acknowledged in federal legislationas a health care provider. After allthis time, the nation's largest payor ofhealth care services is now recognizingthe vital role of the pharmacist as amedication therapy manager and iswilling to compensate pharmacists fortheir services," Kerr Drug's ExecutiveVice President, Pharmacy and LogisticsRalph Petri said during the NationalAssociation of Chain Drug Stores(NACDS) Pharmacy and TechnologyConference on August 29, 2004, in SanDiego, Calif.

The purpose of MTM is to optimizetherapeutic outcomes, improve medicationuse, reduce the risk of adversedrug events and drug interactions,and increase patient adherence andcompliance with prescribed regimens."Effectively delivering MTMservices to our nation's Medicarebeneficiaries will be one of communitypharmacy's most effective andimportant ways of demonstratingthe importance of the pharmacist inimproving the effective use of prescriptionmedications," Petri toldconference attendees.

He stressed, however, that "ifwe do not effectively deliver MTM withinthe Medicare benefit, we not onlyrisk losing this important opportunitybut the much larger opportunity toeffectively demonstrate the pharmacist'svital role in health care to the Americanpublic."

Successfully delivering MTM programsrequires changes. "It meanspositioning our pharmacists to utilizetheir expertise more actively than everbefore. If we are to succeed, we, as aprofession, must do things differently,"Petri added.

Petri also highlighted the pressingissues that will challenge the continuedsuccess of community pharmacyin the coming months. He said thatcommunity pharmacy, along with theNACDS, is hard at work making surethat the role of community pharmacyis properly recognized as a key contributorto safe, cost-effective health care.A majority of this year's focus has beenon 4 fundamental areas:

  • Striving toward a meaningful prescriptiondrug benefit for Medicarebeneficiaries
  • Involving all stakeholders in thedrug importation debate to ensurethe right of all patients to qualitymedications
  • Working to support patient choicein the prescription medicationmail-order debate
  • Working for adequate reimbursementfrom state Medicaid agenciesand other payors for pharmacyservices

Petri further pointed out that workingon these areas poses 2 underlyingchallenges. "The American public doesnot fully appreciate the value of medications,nor do they understand therole of the community pharmacist inhelping to maximize the safe and effectivebenefits of their medications."

Despite pharmacists repeatedlyranking at or near the top of the annualGallup Poll measuring trust amongAmerican pharmacists, he said that"trusting a pharmacist" is not the sameas "understanding what a pharmacistdoes"?or "appreciating (placing value)on the positive impact a pharmacisthas on improvinghealth care outcomes."

Petri, who has beenencouraged by the discussionsregarding the valuemessage, said, "A crucialingredient in the value messageis the quality of careprovided by the pharmacist."He emphasized thatvalue messaging cannot bedone single-handedly. Itrequires that organizationsin every area of health carejoin together.

One vital way of workingtogether is having eachpharmacy make a commitmentto educate the publicat every chance. "But wemust do more than simplytalk about it, we mustdemonstrate that value,every day, at every opportunity,as we work withpatients and their physicians on maximizingtheir health medication therapyand their health care dollar," he said.

The Sarasota Group, a coalition of communitypharmacy groups anddrug manufacturers, hasspent the last year workingto raise public awareness ofthe "dual value of prescriptionmedications and therole of the communitypharmacist."

Addressing the audienceof pharmacy and pharmaceuticalindustry leaders,Petri said, "The value message,most simply communicated,is that prescriptionmedications are the mostvaluable aspect of healthcare if those medicationsare accompanied by theknowledge and expertise ofa pharmacist that enablesone to realize their totalbenefit."

"Changing the Americanpublic's views about prescriptionmedications andthe value of community pharmacists isa goal of enormous magnitude thatrequires an industry-wide effort," headded.

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