Got a few minutes for the pharmacy profession?

July 15, 2013

Take 15 minutes and make a difference

In My View

What if 62,000 pharmacists appealed to their congressional representatives to create provider status for pharmacists? What if 62,000 pharmacists forwarded this message to two colleagues and they forwarded to two colleagues and they did the same? And what if this is repeated once or twice more? Pretty easy and powerful message, huh? What if they individually volunteered to visit with their Congressional representatives or senators and/or staffers to make the point personal? Wow! How powerful is that?

No more waiting for pharmacy leadership to do our bidding and then complaining about it. No more blaming others. We’ll be able to sit back and say, “Yeah, I personally had something to do with that,” to our children, our grandchildren, and most important, ourselves.

Go for the win

What would you like to see happen to our profession? What is the MOST important thing that could happen to elevate the profession from one of “product, then knowledge” to a profession of “knowledge, then product”? Provider status. The ability to bill for services universally, divorced from product; to expand the practice of pharmacy further than it ever has been expanded.

We have a new healthcare bill that will stretch primary care givers to the limit, while leaving mostly idle the skills and knowledge of the most accessible asset the healthcare system has . . . the pharmacist.  We must continue to educate our other medical colleagues about our skill sets, but more important, we must educate those who know least about our skill sets: the lay public. And we must do so not only through our everyday activities but through the activities of those who enact the laws: Congress.

It can be a win/win situation. We take some of the heat off the stretched healthcare system, save on healthcare costs, and make our congressional representatives look good, all at the same time. But no one will know what we can do or how we can save the system unless we tell them. Most members of Congress are not medical professionals or even close to it. It will take our grassroots actions for them to understand how we can help.

Who, me?

You may be thinking, “Why should I get involved? I don’t have time for this,” right? Do you have time to sit down and eat lunch or speak to a patient in depth about prescriptions? Does the prescription talk get abbreviated because it is not being paid for - unlike the act of filling an Rx or performing an immunization? 

If you don’t like something, do something about it in a meaningful and productive way. Prioritize what is important to you professionally, then act to make it better. Know that your expertise can help others in ways you could never imagine.

But for us to help others, the service must be paid for. It doesn’t matter whether pharmacist services are provided by the government, a nonprofit, or a for-profit organization. They must be paid for with enough funds to generate incentive to provide these services - services that have been shown to eliminate healthcare costs and extend the services of primary care providers who are already recognized under Medicare Part B and a multitude of other insurance plans.

Up to us

Why 62,000? That is the approximate membership of APhA, the largest of the professional pharmacy organizations. As a learned profession, we are primarily responsible for what we do, how we are perceived by the public, and how we can use our professional skills to help create healthier lives for our patients. Individually, we are all responsible as well.

I have just contacted both of my state senators (http://www.senate.gov/) and my Congressional representative (http://www.house.gov/). It took 15 minutes. Do you have 15 minutes? What are you waiting for?

Michael J. Schuh is a clinical pharmacist in Jacksonville, Fla. He can be reached at SchwaRx1@comcast.net.