Too many pharmacists? Pharmacy school glut? The debate rages on

Mar 18, 2015

A pharmacy student and an industry professional offer two very different takes on the issues and what to do about them.

Feelings continue to run high over the subjects raised in “Too many pharmacy schools?” [February 13] and “Not too many pharmacy schools?” [February 20], as well as in Bruce Kiacz’s follow-up commentary, “Schools, advocacy groups edging pharmacists toward life support” [February 25]. Now a pharmacy student and a seasoned industry professional offer two very different takes on the issues and what to do about them.

From a PharmD Candidate

This May, “Dr.” will be added to my name as I earn my PharmD degree. My colleagues and I have worked incredibly hard throughout pharmacy school, but what can we expect as new graduates entering a profession in such transition? The education of healthcare professionals is changing focus to prepare new graduates not only for their titular roles, but also to be agents of change who can view the provision of care as a fluid, ever-improving model.

In response to Bruce Kiacz’s “Schools, advocacy groups edging pharmacists toward life support,” I would rephrase the headline to “…edging pharmacists toward supporting life” - and thus supporting quality healthcare.

See also: Too many pharmacy schools?

Interprofessional education

With interprofessional education included in the 2016 ACPE standards, new pharmacists are expected to graduate competent in patient-centered care and proficient at being members of an interprofessional team of healthcare professionals. I believe this push for interprofessional education will propel pharmacists into nontraditional roles that better equate to the level of education PharmDs receive.

Contrary to the author’s assertion that younger physicians might not want to consult with pharmacists, students’ practice of interprofessional communication teaches them not only respect for the other professions, but knowledge of what each profession has to offer. Thus our future patients will be managed by a team and ultimately receive quality individualized care.

Morphing into a new model

Kiacz complains that the old pharmacy dispensing model is shrinking, but he misses the overwhelming evidence that pharmacy is morphing into a new model, one that includes counseling patients, performing immunizations, monitoring chronic diseases, delivering medication therapy management, and stepping out from behind the bench with purpose, expertise, and trustworthiness. Models such as telepharmacy enable pharmacists to deliver care from a distance, but also to incorporate the ability to provide care to those underserved and rural communities in desperate need.

The profession of pharmacy is not on “life support,” and new pharmacy graduates have more diverse options than ever to choose from to begin their careers. My education will help me improve the health and quality of life of my future patients, provide me with opportunities beyond drug information and dispensing, and allow me to add value to our healthcare system.

Pharmacists have a responsibility to improve the quality of care that patients receive by moving to the forefront through interprofessional teamwork and advancing pharmacy innovation. My education prepared me to support the lives of my patients and better the healthcare system.

E. Maggie JonesPharm.D. Candidate, 2015
University of New England College of Pharmacy

 

From a pharmacy industry CEO

In the matter of too many pharmacy schools/too many pharmacists, the question is, how can the problem be alleviated?

See also: Not too many pharmacy schools?

According to some estimates, if nothing changes between now and 2018, there could be a 25% oversupply of pharmacists in the marketplace. The only solution would be to create more jobs for pharmacists, jobs outside the normal dispensing function of most pharmacists today. Where would these jobs come from?

I can offer only one possible solution.

Legislative and regulatory

First, pharmacists must achieve “healthcare provider” status. Getting H.R. 592 and S 314 passed in Congress is the first step.

Second, CMS must make an adjustment under Medication Therapy Management Program (MTMP) Requirement 423.153(d) and eliminate “target procedures,” as well as eliminate “targeted beneficiaries,” as described in Section 30.2.

I am suggesting that all beneficiaries under Medicare and Medicaid should be required to have an annual comprehensive medication review (CMR). The CMR should be administered by either a pharmacist or some other qualified healthcare professional.

Reimbursement overhaul

Third, reimbursement must be made to the pharmacist, or to the pharmacist’s employer, for the time involved in performing the CMR with the patient and submitting the proper documentation to CMS for payment.

 This reimbursement to the employer would have to cover all the employer’s expenses, including the hourly wage rate, plus all mandatory taxes and insurance, and the fringe benefits package, as well as any other hidden payroll expenses.

The result would be benefit across the board. I have seen studies that describe an annual savings to CMS of approximately $13 billion dollars, per year, every year. It would be a win-win for all parties involved - especially the patients. CMS wins, the patients win, and the problem of pharmacist oversupply would be alleviated.

The time to act is now. We should not wait until 2018.

Ronald G. Cameron, CEOCameron and Co. Inc.
“The Pharmacists’ Registry”

These two perspectives address quite different aspects of the same question. There are many others. E-mail drugtopics@advanstar.com with your point of view; we will be glad to add it to the conversation.

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