The Future of Community Pharmacy Is in Your Hands

Pharmacy Careers, Volume 0, 0

Mr. Roberts is NCPA executive vice president and chief executive officer.

We at the National community pharmacistsAssociation (NCPA) are focused on an envisioned futurewhere the pharmacy benefit is broadly recognized forthe value it brings to health care. It is a future where theservices of a pharmacist are central to the delivery of thebenefit and where our health care system embraces theimportance of the pharmacist's face-to-face relationshipwith patients.

NCPA Intern: Iris Kim, PharmD candidate 2009, Washington State University College of Pharmacy

For a community pharmacist, health care is not aboutformularies and copays—it is about thepatient. Community pharmacists are thelast health care professionals a patient seesbefore embarking on a medication journeyof a week or of a lifetime. Pharmacistsare on the front lines, and the last lines,of a patient's health care experience. Andthat opportunity—to review, instruct, andcomfort—is more valuable than anythingon which you can put a price tag.

I am an optimist. I readily confess that ispart of my nature. Being an optimist doesnot mean you are na?ve to your challenges,however. Certainly, independent communitypharmacy has more than its share ofchallenges. So, why am I so optimistic aboutour future?

One reason I am optimistic is because of the growinguse of technology. Today, we are using technology asnever before to improve the quality of care, reduce costs,and provide a more personalized health care experience.In 2006, NCPA established a separate technology entityfocused on providing medication therapy managementto Medicare Part D patients with chronic conditions andmultiple medications. It was designed to give patients amore personalized health care experience and to rewardpharmacists.

The progress made by Mirixa in 2 short years has beenextraordinary. The MirixaPro is not only NCPA's technologychoice, but it is also the platform of choice for allexisting and future American Pharmacists AssociationFoundation commercial programs delivered throughcommunity pharmacy.

Seven years ago, alongwith the National Associationof Chain DrugStores, we establishedSureScripts, which weenvisioned as a neutralplatform to facilitateelectronicprescribing (e-prescribing).Beyondthat,however, it was anotherelement of our strategy tohave the pharmacy benefitrecognized for the value itbrings to overall health—one in which the pharmacist'srole is central. Now,70% of all communitypharmacies are acceptinge-prescriptions, and moreare connecting to the PharmacyHealth InformationExchange every day.

Last summer, SureScripts merged with a rivalexchange, RxHub. The benefitsof forming a single, secure,nationwide network for e-prescriptions and the exchange ofhealth information were always obvious. An abundance ofevidence exists that e-prescribing can save time, money, andlives?our time, our money, our patients. Paper prescriptionsare going away sooner rather than later, and the newSureScripts-RxHub is there to help you make the transition.

Technological innovations like SureScripts-RxHub andMirixa are critical pieces of the puzzle that are helping usmake a difference for our patients and ultimately will leadus to our envisioned future. They certainly are one reasonfor optimism.

But the greatest reason why I am optimistic is becauseof students like you. At the 110th Annual Conventionin Tampa last year, NCPA hosted its fifth annual Pruitt-Schutte Student Business Plan Competition, and eachyear the competition just gets better and better. Studentsfrom >30 schools and colleges of pharmacy participatedin this one-of-a-kind competition on independent pharmacyownership (with special congratulations to the2008 winner, the University of Arizona). It does not justend at the convention. A survey of previous competitionparticipants found that over one third went to work in anindependent community pharmacy after graduation, anda whopping 88% plan to pursue independent communitypharmacy ownership in the future.

To help you as future owners, NCPA has created thenew NCPA Ownership Academy, a "go-to" resource forall phases of community ownership. This one-stop shopprovides valuable information and a networking source—from tools to assist in buying a pharmacy, making yourpractice better and more profitable as an owner, and evenselling your business and transitioning into retirement,the Ownership Academy has everything you need for acareer in community pharmacy.

Although I am so optimistic about our future, I knowthat there are further challenges that lie ahead. In ournation's capital, we still must battle for community pharmacies'right to negotiate with pharmacy benefit managersand a fix to a Medicaid reimbursement system thatproposes to pay us less than the acquisition cost for manygeneric drugs. We also anxiously await the beginning oflegislative efforts to overhaul our health care system andprovide universal coverage.

So, how can you help? Become an NCPA member now.Get involved in the NCPA chapter at your school, orif one does not exist start one with the help of NCPA'sStudent Affairs Outreach Program, which is now workingthrough 80 pharmacy school chapters to incorporateentrepreneurship into the educational experience.

Furthermore, help us rally the troops in the weeks andmonths to come as we march toward our envisionedfuture—a future of having community pharmacists frontand center in the health care system and our industryrecognized as a political powerhouse second to none.Let us build on our past successes, go forward, and makesure that community pharmacists are treated like the cornerstoneof our health care system that we truly are. Thefuture of independent pharmacy is in your hands.