On the right track

March 15, 2011

Chief executives from key pharmacy organizations met in mid-2010 to reinforce the joint message that the fight to move pharmacy into a central healthcare role has just begun.

Key Points

Much has changed in the year since President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as healthcare reform. And much remains the same.

The prospect of reform prompted many competing pharmacy groups to submerge their differences and present Washington with a unified program focused on medication management and enhanced roles for pharmacists. The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) is still saying nice things about the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), and vice versa. The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) is openly sharing credit for pharmacy's successes with other organizations, and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) is touting the key role that hospitals can play in improving healthcare.

Among other agenda items:

Working together is the right idea, said Stephen W. Schondelmeyer, PharmD, PhD, director, PRIME Institute, University of Minnesota, Minn. He is also a member of the Drug Topics editorial board.

The pharmaceutical industry has already gotten pharmacy and pharmacists written into larger roles in a healthcare delivery system that is about to balloon. An estimated 32 million Americans who are currently without health coverage will gain coverage over the next few years, including 16 million new Medicaid beneficiaries. Millions of Medicare recipients will be affected as the Medicare Part D coverage gap known as the "donut hole" is closed. Medication therapy management (MTM) has become a priority, with $10 billion in new funding to create innovative models. Pharmacists can expect to play a direct role in all these areas.

"Healthcare reform gave pharmacists a vehicle to talk about the role pharmacy can play," Anderson said. "Pharmacists are becoming the visible face of community healthcare in the United States. After the economy and jobs, healthcare is going to remain front and center for members of Congress and for regulators."