Enlisting Pharmacists to Improve Medical Care

The term health care reform has been part of the American public’s vocabulary for some time now, but Massachusetts has been a focal point for this national debate—perhaps more than any other state and for a much longer time. So when pharmacists convened in Boston last month at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Total Store Expo, it was not surprising to see an op-ed article prominently featured in The Boston Globe that drew lots of attention to pharmacists and the proposed bipartisan legislation in the US House of Representatives (H.R. 4190) that would increase the accessibility of affordable health care services for Medicare beneficiaries who are in medically underserved communities.

Why is this proposed law so important? Essentially, it would allow pharmacists to provide these underserved communities with services under Medicare Part B that they are currently permitted to administer according to state law. This would be huge—in health care cost savings and in demonstrating just what pharmacists can actually do to improve patient health nationally in coordination with the health care team.

President and chief executive officer of NACDS Steven C. Anderson, along with dean of the MCPHS University School of Pharmacy-Worchester/Manchester Michael Malloy, PharmD, noted the following in their op-ed piece entitled “To Improve Medical Care, Enlist Pharmacists”: “Behind the pharmacy counter in our community drug stores are highly educated professionals who not only dispense medications, but also serve in other important roles as part of the patient’s health care team.” They urge Massachusetts and other states to make use of this great resource as the demand for services increases and the population ages. In this state alone, 12 out of 14 counties include communities that are medically underserved, and this proposed law would help pharmacists fill the gap where physicians are not available.

In fact, the entire country is facing this monumental health crisis, state by state, as the Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that there will be upward of 91,000 fewer doctors available to meet the growing demands of health care reform—all as the Affordable Care Act continues to take hold in the next few years. Steven Anderson and Michael Molloy have the best answer: “Sometimes the solutions to our toughest challenges are right in front of us.”

We agree. Enlist pharmacists for better health—they are right down the street.

Thank you for reading!

Mike Hennessy Chairman and CEO