A watershed opportunity for pharmacy

June 15, 2010

The healthcare reform legislation signed into law March 23 is expected to give healthcare access to 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured. The legislation gives pharmacists a role in helping alleviate the influx of new patients.

Key Points

The healthcare reform legislation signed into law by President Obama, while gathering mixed reviews from all segments of the pharmaceutical industry, appears to give pharmacists a greater role in a healthcare delivery system on the verge of exponential growth.

Some pharmacy advocates say that this formal recognition could signal the start of a paradigm shift in the way pharmacists interact with doctors and other healthcare professionals and provide services to patients. With 16 million more individuals being added to the Medicaid program alone and millions of senior citizens gaining additional dollars through the closure of the Medicare "donut hole," more patients are expected to visit and consult their pharmacists, possibly through newly authorized medication therapy management (MTM) programs. All told, the legislation signed into law March 23 is expected to give healthcare access to 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured. The legislation gives pharmacists a role in helping alleviate the influx of new patients, authorities say.

MTM gets a boost

One key way in which pharmacists might make a difference is through direct counseling of patients. With their increased education and training as doctors of pharmacy, younger pharmacists in particular have the knowledge and expertise to help patients coordinate medications, diet, lifestyle, and health history, and to encourage better adherence to their prescriptions, experts said.

The legislation establishes an MTM grant program that will work to find the most appropriate new ways to provide MTM services. The bill suggests pharmacist roles in accountable-care organizations (also known as ACOs), medical homes, "transition of care" teams, and medication reconciliation activities, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).