Better Health Care: Turn to the Pharmacist


In a recent article, Richard H. Thaler, a professor of economics and behavioral science at the Booth School of Business in Chicago, was extremely blunt about the state of our country's health care when he wrote, "Americans spend far more on health care than people in other countries and we have little to show for it. And as we live longer after retirement, the share that will be paid by the government will rise."

With the Affordable Care Act taking hold, health care providers from every corner are struggling to make sense of exactly how things will work, and that includes pharmacists who could and should become pivotal in the team approach of caring for patients. Still, there is no clear answer on how this is all going to work—or who will pay for it and how.

Entrepreneurial pharmacists, many from the independent, privately-owned sector of the profession, are tackling this new health care scene by jumping in their own communities and taking the lead with new services, offering a variety of health products, and establishing relationships with local health care professionals where there was little communication before. They should be applauded for their entrepreneurial spirit!

More new approaches will be needed going forward. Thaler has several suggestions worth thinking about. He suggests that the ideal health care delivery system would have a "fee for health" rather than "fee for service" model. This means we should pay health care professionals for keeping their patients well, rather than doing more tests or prescribing more medications. A second idea is to require a scientific, evidence-based approach to everything the health system offers—easier said than done, but it is the direction health care is moving in today.

Now comes the good news. Here is an economist who understands the value that pharmacists can bring to the table. He calls for "more employment of midlevel professionals like pharmacists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, to give primary care physicians more time to talk to their patients. . . many of these professionals are underused. A goal should be to allow all members of the health care team to work to the full extent of their expertise, something that is not currently the norm."

We agree. Let's make sense of how time and money is spent on health care and let's involve all health care professionals in their rightful role—and that certainly includes pharmarcists.

Thank you for reading!

Mike Hennessy

Chairman/Chief Executive Officer/President

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