Pharmacists and Healthcare Provider Status | Steve Soman, PharmD | RxEconsult

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Improve Healthcare | Support Pharmacist Healthcare Provider Status Category: Pharmacy by - December 30, 2012 | Views: 31030 | Likes: 1 | Comment: 1  


Pharmacist Prescribing

When you visit your local pharmacy you are welcomed by a smiling pharmacist who inquires about your day, your family, your wellbeing, provides you with your medication, and gives your free advice about your health and medications. What you may not know is the amount of knowledge, expertise and work that is required to ensure that you receive appropriate medications and that they are used safely and effectively.

How do pharmacists provide care

On every health team, from your local pharmacy to large medical centers, pharmacists play a vital role in ensuring that patients receive proper medical therapy. They ensure that the medication you or your loved ones take are appropriate based on your body’s organ functions, weight, and goals of therapy – a process known as pharmacokinetics. Pharmacists also evaluate drug doses, frequency of administration, vehicle or route of administration and monitor serum drug levels to ensure that drugs provide the optimal benefit with minimal side effects. The pharmacist also conducts reviews to ensure that any medication prescribed by your doctor is compatible with your existing therapies and any drug interactions are monitored or avoided. It is usually the pharmacist that follows up with medical teams and healthcare workers to ensure optimal dosing, appropriate length of therapy and appropriate frequency of medications using Drug Utilization Reviews (DURs) and Drug Use Evaluations (DUEs). So the next time you see a pharmacist, make sure you thank them for helping ensure that the medication you receive is safe, effective and appropriate based on your individual medical needs.

Where do pharmacist fit in the healthcare continuum of care

Pharmacists play a critical role as primary care providers in the community setting. Even though Social Security Act does not recognize pharmacists as healthcare providers, they already provide primary care services and improve health in collaboration with physicians and other providers in all states. Ranging from flu shots to immunizations and recommendations for over-the-counter (OTC) products, pharmacists are on the forefront of public health. They are also the most easily accessible healthcare professionals to see for advice and help on medical matters. Pharmacists provide all these additional services without charging consulting fees. Pharmacists also provide follow-up healthcare services to numerous patients. From counseling you on proper medication usage, dietary restrictions, and recommendations for your medical needs to calling you at home after a hospital discharge are just a few important services pharmacists provide without charging consultation fees.

What does provider status mean and why is it important to everyone

Despite overwhelming evidence that pharmacists have an impact on patient health and the healthcare system, pharmacists are not recognized as healthcare providers under the Social Security Act. Therefore, Medicare cannot pay them for therapy management and patient consultation services they conduct to help ensure patient safety and medication adherence. The Social Security Act recognizes other healthcare professionals such as dietitians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurse midwives, and clinical social workers and pays them for their services.

By changing the compensation structure allowed under Medicare, we can ensure that patients will have more access to the knowledge and expertise of a pharmacists without increasing the cost the patient has to pay. Studies have shown that when a pharmacist is directly involved in patient care, patients have fewer adverse drug reactions, experience improved outcomes, and healthcare costs are reduced. Mismanagement of medications and medication related issues cause approximately 1.5 million preventable adverse events each year, costing the healthcare system $177 billion.

Why is it that pharmacists do not have provider status

Pharmacy is a profession that is evolving and growing rapidly into a more patient focused role. It is an ancient profession that can trace its beginnings to early societies where we were known as apothecaries and chemists. Pharmacists are extensively trained to be experts on drugs and medications – a field known as pharmacotherapy. Pharmacists receive six to eight years of professional training centered on medications and proper patient care. After pharmacy school, pharmacists may choose to complete a one or two-year residency program to advance their practice skills. Pharmacists work in the community, hospitals, physician offices and other specialty practices to provide medication-related support to the health care team.

Pharmacists were not recognized as a healthcare providers in the Social Security Act because lawmakers did not understand the role of pharmacists. This omission should be corrected so that pharmacists are recognized for their contributions to the healthcare system, their extensive training and knowledge, and their commitment to ensuring proper and safe patient care. Recognizing pharmacists as healthcare providers and changing the compensation structure will increase availability of individualized pharmacist care.

The U.S. Surgeon General signed a letter of support in December of 2011 to recognize pharmacists as health care providers in health care reform. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recognized the vital role pharmacists play in the management of chronic diseases. Both acknowledge pharmacists for their participation in the management and prevention of chronic health problems, and their ability to increase access to primary care services. Improved utilization of pharmacists as essential part of the health care team can help resolve the primary care crisis our country faces.

How can you help

Only with your help and assistance, we can ensure that pharmacists are given more legal acknowledgement and expanded rights to work on behalf of patients to ensure safety, proper drug therapy and reduce costs in our healthcare system. The money saved by having pharmacists spot and fix medication errors, treatment regimen errors, and inappropriate prescribing can improve care and reduce patient expenses and the overall burden of such costs to our healthcare system. So speak to your congressional representatives, senators, county legislatures and the State Board of Pharmacy to help urge them to recognize pharmacists as healthcare providers. Only with your support and dedication, we can begin this change. You can add your voice to this cause by signing a petition to the President of the United States at the website “We the People” located here.

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For More Information, Visit:

Whitehouse.Gov Petition

ACCP Report and Policy on this issue for 2013

Explanation on the Petition

Rho Chi Post Article on the issue by Dr. Sandra Leal

Original petition

Related Article

Use Personal Pharmacists, Avoid Interactions, Save Money


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