The professional pharmacist

May 14, 2014By Focus on the Pharmacy Front End Blog, Independent Pharmacy

By Dave Wendland

Recent legislation enacted in California and the current movement within Washington, DC is moving the pharmacist closer and closer to becoming appropriately recognized as a “healthcare professional.” “But wait, Dave, everyone knows they are healthcare professionals. They are the most accessible, trusted, and well-educated among others that operate in the healthcare continuum.” For some, they are the primary care provider, counselor and confidant. But, according to the letter of the law, they HAVE NOT been officially classified as healthcare professionals.

ProfessionalPharmacistWhy the fuss? Without this designation, pharmacists are disadvantaged in the system. Especially apparent in light of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), these highly-capable professionals are not afforded the same level of latitude and accountability when caring for their patient population.

Are we getting closer? Yes! Given mounting pressure by key constituencies and the organized efforts by trade associations such as National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), and the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), I believe the official recognition as healthcare professionals under Medicare may be just around the corner (H.R. 4190 would amend the Social Security Act to designate pharmacists as healthcare providers under the Medicare program).

Will it make a difference to customers? Likely not. I believe the vast majority would be dismayed to find that pharmacists have not earned this distinction many years ago. The level of care they have received and the trust they have in the pharmacist is the same as they have experienced with their physicians, nurses, or any other member of their personal healthcare team.

Who cares? Third party payers, governmental agencies, and the physician community to name a few. These are the groups that will need to change their perceptions and processes to allow pharmacists to be viewed among the same echelon as doctors and nurses and the rest of the lot by the Social Security Administration.

I honestly hope we are all saying “congratulations” very soon to the hardworking professional shepherds of our health who we call pharmacists!

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