By Jesse Hogue, Pharm.D., pharmacy education coordinator, Bronson Methodist Hospital, MSHP immediate past-president
In January, President Dana Staat wrote an excellent article updating us on the status of the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act and how we can start to “Gear Up” for practice after approval of the act. After the many articles that Dana, I and many others have written, I do not think I need to go into great detail on the many facets to the Act here. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a brief update on the status of the legislation. I am excited to announce that, since the January MSHP Monitor was published, the House version of the bill was reintroduced by Representative Brett Guthrie (R-KY) with an impressive 107 cosponsors! At the time of my writing in early February, the number of cosponsors was already up to 126, but only two of our Michigan representatives (Rep. Tim Walberg and Rep. Mike Bishop) had signed on to support the bill. We were up to 27 cosponsors on the Senate side, but of our two senators in Michigan, only Sen. Gary Peters had signed on to support the bill, so there is still work to be done for us here in Michigan! I encourage you to visit www.Congress.gov for ongoing updates. Once at the site, simply search for S 109 or HR 592 to pull up the status of the bills.
One important topic Dana highlighted in her article that I would like to focus on further was the push to start referring to the bill as “Improving Patient Access to Pharmacists’ Health Care Services” legislation rather than “Provider Status” legislation. I am sure within our professional circles we will continue referring to it as the “Provider Status Bill” since that rolls off the tongue far nicer than the “Patient Access to Pharmacists’ Services Bill,” but it does raise a good point. When we are talking to the public, or our legislators, do they care that we, as pharmacists, want to be considered providers who can bill for our services? Or are they more interested in making sure patients have access to the care they need to achieve optimal health outcomes? These, of course, are rhetorical questions, but I am referring to the legislation as the “Provider Status Bill” while discussing it with a legislator could potentially slant his or her view of pharmacy as self-serving rather than altruistic, which certainly will not help our cause!
This frame of thinking was underscored for me recently as I was advising some of our physician practice directors on how to deal with the new rules expanding prescriptive authority for nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and physician assistants. I was reminded of the fact that these advanced practice providers started in much the same way that we are. They did not lobby initially for broad prescriptive authority; rather, they too focused on expanding access to healthcare services in medically underserved areas. But as I am sure you are all aware, they have effectively demonstrated their effectiveness in expanding access and have been able to “Gear Up” their scope and authority over the past few years. They put the care of patients at the center of their initiative and now are firmly established, valued providers within the healthcare system. I see no reason that our profession cannot be equally as successful if we take the correct approach. I would argue that pharmacist providers will contribute just as much as our advanced practice provider colleagues to expanding cost effective, high quality care for our underserved patients, given the appropriate authority.
So I encourage you to contact your legislators and ask them to support the “Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act.” Educate them on what we as pharmacists can bring to the table as experts in medication management. Remind them of the critical provider shortage and how it is adversely limiting the delivery of healthcare services to large numbers of their constituents. But most importantly, make sure they know our primary concern is the patient. It may help to recall the following portions of the Pharmacist’s Oath:
- I will consider the welfare of humanity and relief of suffering my primary concerns.
- I will apply my knowledge, experience and skills to the best of my ability to assure optimal outcomes for my patients.
- I will embrace and advocate changes that improve patient care.