Pharmacists Are Integral Member of Healthcare Team
By Christina Beatty, Pharm.D. Candidate, University of Florida // July 28, 2014
HEALTHCARE PROVIDER STATUS FOR CLINICAL PHARMACISTS UNDER CONSIDERATION IN CONGRESS
EDITOR’S NOTE: The pharmacist profession is evolving, with their role taking more of a clinical focus. In my experience, doctors of pharmacy function as an integral member of the healthcare team, are always committed, engaged and up on the most recent clinical evidence related to patients’ medications and the conditions for which they are prescribed.
Their specialized education and training in the use of medications to treat, manage and prevent diseases puts pharmacists in a unique position to help improve health outcomes.
The bill referred to by our guest columnist, Christina Beatty, who is a University of Florida pharmacy doctorate candidate and presently doing a clinical rotation at Holmes Regional Medical Center, would enable patient access to, and coverage for Medicare Part B services by state-licensed pharmacists practicing in medically underserved communities.
The legislation does not necessarily expand pharmacists’ scope of practice, but it does recognize pharmacists as valued members of the healthcare team, and allows and incentivizes them to use their unique skills and extensive education to enhance patient health.
HR 4190 establishes a mechanism to pay for pharmacist provider services as a percentage of the current physician fee schedule, or pursuant to pharmacist-specific codes as part of that schedule, which is consistent with Medicare reimbursement for other non-physician practitioners, such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners.
— Dr. Jim Palermo, Editor-in-Chief
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA — Pharmacists have earned a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.), and are the medication experts on the health care team. Currently, pharmacists are not recognized as healthcare providers under federal law despite a growing body of evidence showing that pharmacist involvement with patients does improve health, enhance patient satisfaction and reduce health care costs.
ROLE OF PHARMACISTS ON HEALTHCARE TEAM
Although pharmacists are perhaps the most accessible professional healthcare providers, a lack of federal recognition restricts services that pharmacists can provide and be reimbursed for, such as Medication Therapy Management (MTM).
MTM is one of the many services that a pharmacist can provide to help patients get the best benefit from their medications by identifying and resolving medication-related problems. Pharmacists can identify adverse effects from medications and help improve adherence to medications by providing education on disease states and the importance of each medication.
How a pharmacist can help improve patient outcomes is illustrated by a scenario that occurred while I was working at a local retail pharmacy.
A patient was identified as having hypertension after two in-store screening blood pressure measurements suggested that it was consistently high. A brief interview with the patient revealed that the patient had stopped taking his blood pressure medications because he could not afford to see the doctor to get a refill.
We stepped in and provided education on the importance of taking blood pressure medications every day to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and were able to bridge the gap between the physician and the patient by requesting refills on behalf of the patient and providing the medications at the lowest cost possible.
PENDING LEGISLATION TO RECOGNIZE PHARM.Ds. AS HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS
On March 11, 2014, H.R. 4190 was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to amend Title XVIII (Medicare) of the Social Security Act to cover pharmacist services. It is a bill that would recognize pharmacists as healthcare providers and valued members of the healthcare team.
H.R. 4190 allows Medicare reimbursement for certain pharmacist services in medically underserved communities.
Presently, many states allow pharmacists to provide additional services, such as immunizations, diabetes management, blood pressure screenings and routine checks, but there is currently no mechanism for pharmacists to be reimbursed by the Medicare program for their services.
This bill establishes a mechanism by which pharmacists can be reimbursed for these services they are already allowed to perform.
Many organizations, such as the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), are campaigning to achieve provider status for pharmacists.
WAYS YOU CAN HELP
If you think that your pharmacist has a positive impact on your health and deserves to be considered a healthcare provider, contact your congressperson today and ask them to support H.R. 4190.
For more information visit: Pharmacist.com/providerstatusrecognition
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christina Beatty is a Doctor of Pharmacy candidate scheduled to graduate from the University of Florida College of Pharmacy in May 2015.
She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Florida, is currently on her Hospital Practice rotation at Holmes Regional Medical Center, and is also a pharmacy intern at CVS/Pharmacy.