Pharmacist Provider Status: A Continued Struggle

Recognition as a health care provider continues to be elusive for pharmacists.

For decades, pharmacists have touted their role as health care providers.

As a profession, we have published thousands of manuscripts in the pharmacy literature demonstrating our impact on health care. Our many pharmacy organizations have provided thousands of continuing education (CE) programs and publications touting the value of the pharmacist, as well.

But after all these years, pharmacists continue to struggle in demonstrating their value and being formally recognized as health care providers.

We have professed our excellence to each other, but we have not proven our value to key opinion leaders. This is the major reason why pharmacy has struggled to make any significant headway as a leader in health care.

Just recently, however, the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act (H.R. 592 and S.134) gained more momentum in Congress.

As of this writing, there are 185 co-sponsors in the US House of Representatives and 28 in the US Senate. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) is calling to increase this number to at least 218 co-sponsors in the House and 50 in the Senate.1

Although the political process behind pharmacist provider status has been long and slow, the results are still uncertain.

A recent NBC News article titled “In Physician Shortage, Can Nurse Practitioners Replace Doctors?” discusses how patients are increasingly turning to nurse practitioners for less expensive health care. The piece detailed the controversy of the differences in training between physicians and nurses, as well as the impending shortage of physicians, which is expected to exceed 46,000 within the next 10 years.2

Why isn’t there similar discussion in mainstream media about pharmacists actively participating as alternative health care providers and assisting with patient care services in the future?

Pharmacy has been very late to the health care delivery table. Nurses and other practitioners have been establishing themselves for years. They have gained recognition in not only mainstream media, but also in payment for the health care services they deliver.

In my 20-year pharmacy career, I still can’t believe that pharmacists are not recognized as health care providers at the national level.

How many more years is it going to take? How many of us will work in the field for 30 or more years and still not achieve this benchmark for service?

I applaud ASHP for its continued advocacy for federal provider status legislation, but we all need to unite in this attempt by contacting House and Senate representatives to support these bills for the future of our profession.

Do you think all pharmacists are united in this cause? Do you believe some are not interested in this responsibility? Do you believe our legislators require greater assistance in understanding future health care provisional services? Do you think other pharmacy organizations should partner together to form a single voice for future endeavors?

I welcome all thoughts on the future of provider status for pharmacists.

References

1. ASHP Connect website. Provider Status: Moving Forward, Major Push by Practitioners Still Needed. http://connect.ashp.org/blogs/paul-abramowitz/2015/08/12/provider-status-moving-forward-major-push-by-practitioners-still-needed?ssopc=1. Accessed August 30, 2015.

2. NBC News website. In physician shortage, can nurse practitioners replace doctors? http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/physician-shortage-can-nurse-practitioners-replace-doctors-n418296. Accessed August 30, 2015.