State Governors Support Pharmacist Provider Status

The National Governors Association is exploring and supporting pharmacists' expanding role in providing direct patient care outside of dispensing medications.

The National Governors Association (NGA) is exploring and supporting pharmacists’ expanding role in providing direct patient care outside of dispensing medications.

“States…are examining their health care systems to define policies that create efficient models of care focused on improved quality and health outcomes as well as reduced costs. Integrating pharmacists, who represent the third-largest health profession, into such systems is important for achieving intended goals,” the NGA wrote in a paper released on January 13, 2015. “Pharmacists have the professional expertise to address key challenges facing the health care system, including the prevalence of people who have multiple chronic conditions and the increased use of more complex medications to manage those diseases.”

National Association of Chain Drug Stores President and CEO Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE, echoed the NGA’s sentiments in a press release.

“Trusted and accessible, we know that pharmacists are also playing an increasingly important role in the delivery of health care services, and now commonly provide immunizations, as well as medication therapy management services,” Anderson stated. “Pharmacists’ education and expertise help patients prevent and manage chronic diseases and provide simple medical testing services to manage health.”

However, the NGA highlighted several barriers to fully integrating pharmacists into chronic care delivery teams, including variation in state regulations governing collaborative practice agreements, limitations on access to health information technology systems, and lack of formal recognition of pharmacists as providers to ensure adequate compensation for direct patient care services.

“The integration of pharmacists into team-based models of care could potentially lead to improved health outcomes. To realize that prospect, states should consider engaging in coordinated efforts to address the greatest challenges pharmacists face,” the NGA wrote. “…Examining state-specific challenges and promising practices from other states will allow states to develop policies that permit pharmacists to practice within the full scope of their professional training across the health care continuum.”

The NGA pointed out that California, Montana, New Mexico, and North Carolina have taken an alternative approach toward expanding pharmacists’ practice scope by implementing advanced pharmacy practice (APP) designation, though the requirements vary across those states. Regardless of formal APP recognition, the lack of sufficient reimbursement for services provided by APPs hinders greater adoption, the NGA said.