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Health Care Reform: What’s Next For Pharmacists?

Sep 28, 2010

Henri R. Manasse, Jr., Ph.D., Sc.D.

Henri R. Manasse, Jr., Ph.D., Sc.D.

AS WE GO TO PRESS with the fall 2010 edition of InterSections, nearly 100 ASHP members have just finished an intensive day lobbying congressional representatives and their staff members on issues critical to our profession.

It has been a busy, but important, time for ASHP members and the patients they serve. With the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as modified by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, Congress showed its support for expanding access to affordable health care, improving quality, and reducing health care costs.

Health care reform offers pharmacists a number of great opportunities to expand patient-care services. It specifically addresses delivery systems reform, payment reform, and quality, comparative effective- ness research, work-force issues, and the 340B Drug Pricing Program.

When you look through the proposed delivery models, almost all of them mention the need to involve pharmacists in solving medication-related issues. That is an exciting change in perception on the national level and one that will help ensure that patients receive better, safer care. ASHP played a vital role for inclusion of pharmacists throughout the legislation.

At ASHP, our efforts to get the legislation passed have now evolved into a focus on working with the federal agencies responsible for developing the regulations to implement the law. We are keeping in close contact with members of Congress to encourage them to sufficiently fund the programs included in the law. We have nominated pharmacists to serve on the newly created Health Care Workforce Commission and other committees. And we are continuing our efforts to expand funding for postgraduate pharmacy residency training.

Although we don’t yet have a clear sense of how the entire process will play out, health-system pharmacists will have many opportunities over the next several years to influence how reform is implemented within their own institutions.

For example, begin a conversation with your institutional leaders and administrators about the importance of improved quality and reduced costs. What is your hospital doing or planning to do to implement reform-related changes, and what can you do to make those changes come to life?

Seek opportunities to include pharmacists in efforts by your organization to create accountable care organizations and “medical homes,” and to meet quality improvement requirements that align payment with quality.

Just as important is staying engaged in the public discourse surrounding health care reform. We all need to be more aware of and get more involved in the regulatory process. Although the new law is a complex document (nearly 2,000 pages with about 400,000 words), it is actually only a skeleton of what is to come. Regulators will flesh out the law, and we need to have a voice in that process to ensure that there are no negative consequences for patient care or for our profession.

Every ASHP member can be a player in this next phase of health care reform by participating in a number of ways:

  • Stay informed about the law’s progress both by connecting to your state affiliate and signing up for ASHP’s Grassroots Network,
  • Join ASHP’s Political Action Committee and help support members of Congress who understand pharmacists’ critical patient-care role,
  • Get to know your federal and state representatives, and invite them to your institution to demonstrate what you do each day to care for patients, and
  • Work within your own spheres of influence to ensure that your hospital or health system involves pharmacists in efforts to improve quality and reduce costs.

Please know that ASHP is behind you every step of the way, as a national advocate for the profession and as a resource for you to advocate for pharmacy within your own hospital or health system. Together, we really do make a great team!

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