Pharmacists now play an integral role as medication experts of the health care team, ensuring optimal medication use and improving patient health outcomes.
Pharmacists are among the most accessible and trusted health care professionals. Over the past 50 years, the role of the pharmacist has evolved dramatically beyond traditional dispensing duties. Pharmacists now play an integral role as medication experts of the health care team, ensuring optimal medication use and improving patient health outcomes.
According to the 2019 National Pharmacist Workforce Study, pharmacists provide direct patient services such as:
However, some patients and policymakers may be unaware of pharmacists' training and skills to provide these clinical services. Therefore, advocacy is necessary to advance the pharmacy profession and expand the pharmacist's role in delivering essential patient care services.
Nevertheless, knowing how to contact legislators and policymakers, as well as the proper way to present health care issues facing pharmacists, may seem daunting.
Understanding the value of advocacy and the importance of an effective means for articulating the value of pharmacists services, the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations (NASPA) and the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) partnered to create State Fact Sheets through a grant from the Community Pharmacy Foundation (CPF).
NASPA and APhA created the first State Fact Sheets in 2011. They were subsequently updated in 2013, 2016, 2018, and most recently in 2020 through the support of the CPF. The State Fact Sheets summarize vital information for advocacy at both the state and federal levels.
NASPA's mission is to "enhance the success of state pharmacy associations in their efforts to advance the profession of pharmacy." Fostering leadership, promoting policy exchange, learning, and information sharing among membership and pharmacy leaders throughout the nation is key to their mission.
Rebecca Snead, BPharm, CAE, FAPhA, executive vice president and CEO of NASPA, Allie Jo Shipman, PharmD, MBA, and NASPA director of State Policy, and other NASPA staff members worked collaboratively to update the State Fact Sheets. APhA also aided in retrieving necessary national statistics and state-specific data points.
The State Fact Sheets have evolved over the years from a predominantly text format to an attractive easy-to-understand infographic, highlighting current relevant topics. Legislators and policymakers are busy individuals with multiple competing priorities. Therefore, conveying complex information in a concise, engaging, and easily digestible format is vital for maximal impact.
The State Fact Sheets serve as a policy resource for pharmacy practice issues. They emphasize:
A national overview version, as well as state-specific fact sheets, are available.
Before updating the 2020 State Fact Sheets, NASPA surveyed state pharmacy associations regarding perceived usefulness. Shipman said that the vast majority replied that the State Fact Sheets were highly beneficial. One state even enlarged their State Fact Sheet to poster-size for use in their advocacy efforts.
"Policymakers and legislators are inundated with information. Providing a broad array of salient facts on a one-pager is useful, whether advocating for payment for services, pushing for a specific expansion in the scope of practice, or providing general education,” Shipman said. “The State Fact Sheets also shows how much the state is spending and the amount of money studies have shown pharmacists can save."
Snead suggested that the State Fact Sheets could help increase pharmacy student engagement in advocacy.
"It helps not only affect policymakers' perception of the profession but also helps enable our students to feel comfortable doing outreach by providing concrete data to discuss with legislators in the absence of a specific piece of relevant legislation," she said.
Shipman added that pharmacists could use the State Fact Sheets to educate patients in the community setting as well. She said, "It's a great starter when you're not quite sure where to begin a conversation with a policymaker, legislator, or even a patient."
Snead and Shipman cited some obstacles associated with the State Fact Sheets project, including the unavoidable published data lag and discontinued publication of data sources.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists have played a crucial role as accessible front-line health care professionals and demonstrated their value. Yet, pharmacists are one of the few health care professionals not recognized by federal law as providers. Therefore, it is essential to our profession's future that pharmacists and pharmacy students get involved in advocacy to let our voices be heard.
The Community Pharmacy Foundation (CPF) funds innovative ideas to advance the practice of pharmacy in the community setting. CPF is committed to transforming community-based pharmacy practice beyond filling prescriptions to a focus on providing patient care as a founding sponsor of the national Flip the Pharmacy program.