Local store tours provide first-hand look at value of community pharmacy
Community pharmacy leaders routinely host pharmacy tours in their stores throughout the year to help demonstrate firsthand to members of Congress and policy-makers the important interaction pharmacists provide patients every day, and the importance of supporting measures that help promote pharmacy to help expand patient access, improve health outcomes and lower healthcare costs.
Last month, Kim Coalter, constituent services representative for Rep. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., toured a Fred’s Super Dollar pharmacy in Jackson, Miss., as part of an National Association of Chain Drug Stores RxIMPACT pharmacy tour.
In 2014, NACDS chain member companies conducted more than 100 Congressional pharmacy tours in districts across the country.
For information on how to set up a tour of a local community pharmacy in your district, contact Heidi Ecker, director, government affairs and grassroots programs, at [email protected].
Provider status legislation for pharmacists: Momentum accelerates with public support
With health reform and the shift to accountable, evidence-based medicine slowly but surely transforming the nation’s massive but troubled healthcare system, new moves are afoot in both the legislative and executive branches of government that will further elevate the role played by the nation’s 300,000 pharmacists. And, surveys show, those moves have the strong support of most Americans.
It’s no secret that the U.S. health system is in trouble. Unsustainable health delivery costs, a dire shortage of primary-care doctors, the massive swelling of the Medicare rolls as 10,000 baby boomers a day turn 65 — all are stressing an already overtaxed system of care.
In turn, those forces are fueling the growing demand for alternative and more easily accessible sites of care, lower-cost delivery of front-line health services and new models of collaborative care. And retail pharmacists, conveniently located in thousands of communities and armed with years of training and clinical expertise in patient counseling, disease prevention and medication therapy management, are aligned perfectly to meet those demands.
Thrust into the spotlight, the pharmacy profession and the retail pharmacy industry have redoubled their campaign to achieve full health provider status that reflects the reality of today’s clinical, patient-centered pharmacy practice. Over the past several years, they’ve found numerous champions in Congress who recognize the untapped potential pharmacy offers as a solution to many of the nation’s critical healthcare needs. And consumer surveys over the past two years show strong endorsement by the public at large for legislation that would grant pharmacists the same professional recognition enjoyed by other members of the patient-care team, while assuring a fair and standardized reimbursement for medication therapy management and other health services.
In recent years, Congress has considered several proposals to grant pharmacists provider status. The most recent came in late January of this year with introduction of the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act [H.R. 592], sponsored by Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Todd Young (R-IN) and Ron Kind (D-WI).
A companion bill (S. 314) emerged in the Senate one week later, introduced by Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Mark Kirk, R-Ill.; and Bob Casey, D-Pa.
If passed and enacted, the new legislation would give Medicare patients — particularly those in medically underserved communities — greater access to pharmacists’ expertise and pharmacy services, including immunizations, diabetes screenings and self-management education, cardiovascular screenings and behavioral therapy, in states in which pharmacists are allowed to provide these services. In so doing, it would also grant pharmacists with enhanced status as fully qualified healthcare providers, in effect recognizing the contributions community pharmacists already make in thousands of local settings each day.
“The provider status designation will amplify pharmacists’ ability to do what they do best — serve patients and help them on the road to better health,” noted NACDS president and CEO Steven Anderson. “The recognition by congressional leaders of pharmacists’ increasingly important role in the delivery of healthcare services is growing, and important progress is being made for the ultimate benefit of patients.”
Indeed, identical legislation introduced in the House last year generated a strong show of bipartisan support, with 123 cosponsors. Increasingly, Americans in general also support an elevated health provider role for pharmacists. A survey of informed voters in July 2014, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and commissioned by NACDS, found that 79% of those polled voiced support for legislation to confer provider status on the pharmacy profession, including 36% who strongly favor it. Support was widespread across the political spectrum, with 85% of democrats and 76% of republicans endorsing a provider status designation for pharmacists.
The public also voiced strong support for legislation that would direct the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to expand medication therapy management services by pharmacists to Medicare Part D beneficiaries. A survey conducted in 2013 found that 82% of informed and engaged voters were in favor of MTM legislation, including support from 88% of democrats, 74% of republicans and 84% of independent voters.
Mobilized health care: Putting pharmacy services on wheels
Pharmacies and clinics on wheels? That’s the premise behind the growing effort by retail pharmacy and clinic providers to expand their reach via specially equipped buses and other vehicles that provide on-the-spot, temporary access to needed health services in hundreds of communities nationwide.
The literal rollout of mobilized health services is a promising method some retailers are using to improve the quality of care in neighborhoods across the United States. Deploying buses and other vehicles staffed by pharmacists, nurses or other clinicians, pharmacy chains and pharmaceutical wholesalers are bringing mobile prescription delivery, health screening services and health education directly to Americans where they live, work and play.
Ongoing initiatives, such as the Walgreens/AARP/National Urban League Way to Well Tour, McKesson’s Better Health Tour and the Rite Aid Rite Track Diabetes Tour, have all highlighted the accessibility that mobile health vehicles can provide and the incredible number of people who can benefit from these health and screening centers on wheels. The Walgreens Way to Well Tour celebrated a major milestone last July when it was announced that the six-year tour had provided health services and screenings to over one million people in thousands of communities nationwide.
Walgreens spearheads its mobile wellness tour, using custom-equipped buses staffed by trained medical technicians and pharmacists who have administered more than $12 million worth of free health tests since 2006.
Rural areas could see the highest potential benefit, as under-served populations see their health care reinforced by mobile health services. Retail chains and wholesalers are leading the charge in bringing health screening services into rural communities. States like Nevada, North Dakota and Montana are seeing mobile treatment methods boost access to quality care.
Although pharmacy providers paved the way, other organizations and government entities have caught on. One prime example: every V.A. healthcare system in the country has some form of mobile care unit.
Mobile healthcare services are also a proven tactic pharmacy providers have used to deliver care during severe public health emergencies. During the relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina in 2006, CVS Health used two mobile pharmacy units to fill more than 20,000 prescriptions for 7,000 people who took shelter at the Astrodome in Houston.
“CVS/pharmacy utilizes mobile pharmacies for deployment in emergency situations to ensure continuity of pharmacy care when a pharmacy is temporarily shut down due to weather emergencies, natural disasters and similar events,” said CVS spokesperson Mike DeAngelis. “Over the years, they have been deployed to markets impacted by Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy and most recently to Buffalo following heavy snowstorms in late 2014. They are important tools to help our pharmacy teams ensure that our communities have continued access to prescription medications.”