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February 19, 2015

A Great Start to 2015

Christene M. Jolowsky, M.S., R.Ph., FASHP

Christene M. Jolowsky, M.S., R.Ph., FASHP

EVEN THOUGH IT’S BEEN A DREARY, DIFFICULT WINTER for much of the country, I’m hoping that what I want to talk about today puts a smile on your face. I will take the opportunity of my first column of the new year to tell you about a number of exciting endeavors happening at ASHP.

Winning on Provider Status

Leading the way this year are some exciting successes regarding provider status for pharmacists. As ASHP CEO Paul Abramowitz noted in his recent blog, ASHP’s work to enact provider status legislation has resulted in the introduction of H.R. 592, the “Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act,” and its companion S. 314. Both bills will allow Medicare to reimburse pharmacists in medically underserved communities for certain healthcare services.

On behalf of ASHP, I extend our thanks to the bipartisan co-sponsors of the legislation on both the House and Senate side, including Congressman Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Congressman Todd Young (R-IN), and Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI) as well as Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Robert Casey (D-PA) .

This is a big bipartisan win in a new Congress, and we are so grateful to the many ASHP members who have been involved in this advocacy effort. The emails, phone calls, hosted health-system site visits, and member visits that you’ve made to your Congressional representatives and senators have made all the difference. But we can’t give up now! We need to keep reaching out to our legislators to urge them to pass this legislation. To find out how you can get involved, visit our advocacy center on ashp.org.

A Fast-Growing Area of Practice

Did you know that ASHP’s Section of Ambulatory Care Practitioners is our fastest-growing membership area? It’s not surprising, given how many ambulatory clinics, physicians’ practices, infusion centers, etc., across the country are including pharmacists on their patient care teams.

ASHP is focusing tremendous resources and effort on expanding opportunities for members who practice in these and other outpatient settings, including adding great new content to the Ambulatory Care Resource Center and making the Ambulatory Care Conference a permanent part of ASHP’s Summer Meetings.

We also are working on a new Ambulatory Care Self-Assessment Tool that will help pharmacists identify patient-care gaps and opportunities for improvement. Like its companion the Hospital Self-Assessment Tool, this web-based resource is designed to help you prioritize the changes you wish to make in your practice. Stay tuned as we work toward a spring launch date!

Residency Accreditation News

ASHP members who are residents, preceptors, or residency program directors will be happy to learn that Katrin S. Fulginiti, B.S.Pharm., M.G.A., has been named the new ASHP Director of Residency Accreditation Services. Katrin was formerly ASHP’s director of Process & Quality Improvement in our Accreditation Services Office. Prior to joining ASHP, she worked at Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States, Inc., where she served in various positions, including as residency program director of the ASHP-Accredited PGY1 Managed Care Program and as director of the ASHP-Accredited Technician Training Program.

That’s just one of the many wonderful things happening in accreditation services. ASHP also is continuing its rollout of our new PGY1 residency standards, which simplify and reduce the number of goals and objectives to be achieved. The new guidance document for the PGY1 standard should be completed in the spring. Watch for future revisions to the PGY1 community and managed care standards and the PGY2 standards.

ResiTrak, which is being redesigned based on the new PGY1 standard and on recommendations from the ResiTrak users group, will transition to PharmAcademic™ for those on the new standard by June 1. We think that ASHP’s members who are preceptors and our student members will be very happy with this new web-based tool that fully integrates curricular outcomes, assessments, and experiential education.

Changes to ASHP’s Strategic Plan

Everything that ASHP does is related in some way to our Strategic Plan, which helps us work toward collective goals and objectives, prioritizes ASHP’s work, and allows us to be more effective as we drive improvements in patient care and advance practice.

ASHP’s Board of Directors recently updated the Strategic Plan, adding three new goals. They include:

Advance Patient Care and Pharmacy Practice in Small, Rural, and Underserved Settings

ASHP’s membership is made up of practitioners who work in all kinds of settings, from large academic medical centers to hospitals and clinics in small, rural, and medically underserved areas. This new goal solidifies our commitment to members who practice in these special settings. And it ensures that we will continue to develop tools, resources, and best practices for this unique area of practice.

Address the Needs and Interests of Pharmacists Who Practice in Multi-Hospital Systems

As more and more hospitals and health systems consolidate, ASHP members who work in these large and diverse healthcare systems find unique challenges. So, ASHP is dedicated to helping these members succeed in their organizations by offering the kinds of support, resources, and services that they need.

Helping Members Lead and Address Issues Related to Specialty Pharmacy

ASHP will soon offer resources specifically designed to help health systems address the growing use of specialty pharmaceuticals. A resource guide is being developed that will assist in determining the best specialty pharmacy business and patient care strategy, coupled with targeted education through webinars and ASHP live meetings. Stay tuned for this and more, including an ASHP Specialty Pharmacy Resource Center.

A More Timely and Responsive Policy Process

ASHP’s policy making process is the backbone of much of what we do to serve you, our members, and to advance practice and patient care. The policies approved by ASHP’s House of Delegates drive all of our initiatives, from legislative advocacy to the creation of practice resources.

I’m excited to share with you the changes we’ve made to create a more timely and responsive policy process based on recommendations of ASHP’s Task Force on Organizational Structure. This year, we will kick off a year-round policy process, which includes meetings of our policy committees in February, July, and September, along with new and enhanced ways for all ASHP members to participate in the process. We’re also launching a virtual House of Delegates in addition to the face-to-face meeting in June, an innovative online approach that will allow us to work virtually together on policies that lend themselves to consensus.

This is just a taste of the exciting work that is going on at ASHP as we continue to support your professional aspirations to be the best patient care provider you can be. Much has been done, but there is always more to do! You can bet that ASHP is hard at work on your behalf.

Sincerely,

Chris

ASHP Student Pharmacists Visit Capitol Hill to Support Provider Status

Filed under: Ambulatory Care,Current Issue,From the CEO,Provider Status,Students — Tags: , , — Kathy Biesecker @ 2:41 pm
Paul W. Abramowitz, Pharm.D., Sc.D. (Hon.), FASHP

Paul W. Abramowitz, Pharm.D., Sc.D. (Hon.), FASHP

On February 3 and 4, 2015, ASHP hosted more than 40 student pharmacists from all around the country to meet with lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate in support of provider status legislation. These eager young leaders and the energy they brought with them as they prepared to meet with their elected officials was incredible, and they were poised, motivated, and professional. There is no doubt in my mind that the future of our profession is in good hands!

On the first day of this inaugural event, the students participated in an orientation session with ASHP’s government relations team as well as a number of outside guests, including the chairperson of the ASHP PAC Advisory Committee, Diane Ginsburg, M.S., Ph.D., and former ASHP President, Kathy Schultz, Pharm.D., M.P.H., FASHP.

On the second day, the students heard from Jaymi Light from Congressman Todd Young’s (R-Ind.) office, who shared perspectives on the most effective ways to discuss the legislation and make the most out of their visits to the Hill.

Congressman Brett Guthrie (R-KY) talks with student pharmacists (from left) Cassie Stewart of West Virginia University, Morgantown, and Katie Oliver and Brian Hancock of University of Charleston, W.Va., about the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act (H.R. 592).

Congressman Brett Guthrie (R-KY) talks with student pharmacists (from left) Cassie Stewart of West Virginia University, Morgantown, and Katie Oliver and Brian Hancock of University of Charleston, W.Va., about the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act (H.R. 592).

These exceptional student leaders visited over 50 offices and met with elected officials and their staff members, asking them to sign on as cosponsors of H.R. 592 and S. 314. They also took time to thank the many current cosponsors of these important pieces of legislation, and let them know that ASHP will be here to support them every step of the way. I’ve been told that their visits made a difference, and that we anticipate a number of new cosponsors to sign on in support of the legislation.

As you read this message, please view the various images of these student leaders exercising their civic duty on behalf of the profession of pharmacy and our patients. I know that they will go back home and recruit many of their peers to get involved and reach out to their Senators and Representatives in Congress. We need for you to do the same. Please start by sending a letter to your Representative and Senators.

Once you send your letters, please recruit at least 10 of your peers to do the same. Also, please consider supporting the ASHP PAC so that we can continue to support the candidates who support your interests as pharmacists and patient care providers.

I will end this message by again giving our thanks to the students who joined us in Washington, D.C., last week and to all of the students and practitioner members of ASHP who will be a vital part of making provider status for pharmacists become the law of the land.

Sincerely,
Paul

February 2, 2015

SNOMED CT Codes: Making the Case for Pharmacy Services with Hard Data

SNOMED_IG_V7MOST PHARMACISTS ARE NOT FAMILIAR with SNOMED CT – yet. But it’s a good bet they’ll start hearing the acronym a lot more and learn that it represents a major step toward normalizing reimbursement for pharmacy services.

SNOMED CT is a clinical coding nomenclature that contains more than 300,000 codes to document patient care in the electronic health record (EHR) – simply put, it’s a language that all EHRs will use to “talk” to each other.

Unlike other commonly used coding systems, such as ICD-9 and ICD-10, SNOMED CT is not used for billing. It’s also far more specific and complex. SNOMED CT is controlled by the International Health Terminology Standards Development Organization (IHTSDO).

In the U.S., the National Library of Medicine manages SNOMED CT. As of 2012, SNOMED CT was being used to some extent in more than 50 countries.

A Common Language

“Think of SNOMED CT as the Rosetta Stone for health information. It allows different electronic health record systems to understand one another,” explained Samm Anderegg, Pharm.D., M.S., BCPS, pharmacy manager with the Oncology Service Line at Georgia Regents Medical Center in Augusta, GA. Anderegg serves as one of the ASHP member representatives on the Pharmacy Health Information Technology Collaborative (Pharmacy HIT Collaborative) workgroup that is responsible for submitting and vetting the codes.

Samm Anderegg, Pharm.D., M.S., BCPS

Samm Anderegg, Pharm.D., M.S., BCPS

“Clinicians are moving away from free text and towards discrete data documentation. This structures the data in a way that it can be packaged and sent to other healthcare providers at different institutions,” he added.

The Collaborative is an alliance that includes ASHP and a dozen other professional and industry groups whose goals include ensuring that health information technology supports pharmacists in healthcare service delivery; achieving pharmacists’ integration within health information exchange; and supporting national quality initiatives enabled by health information technology. The Collaborative found very few codes among healthcare coding systems for documenting direct patient care provided by pharmacists.

“We know that we take care of patients, and we know we have an impact on care, but pharmacy has been behind the curve when it comes to documenting that impact,” said Anderegg.

That’s all changing. In 2012, the Collaborative submitted and won approval for more than 250 codes specific to medication therapy management in the SNOMED CT system. The Collaborative’s Value Set Committee, chaired by Anderegg, will maintain and update the codes to stay current as pharmacy practice evolves.

Demonstrating Pharmacists’ Contributions to Patient Care

For pharmacy, the availability of universal, pharmacy-specific coding will provide an unparalleled opportunity for pharmacists to document their actions, track resulting outcomes, and prove, with hard data, the value of medication therapy management in patient care.

A guide to SNOMED CT issued recently by the Pharmacy HIT Collaborative offers a compelling case for why the new codes are so important.

Ultimately, we want to justify the value of our services by tying what we do to patient outcomes.

“As we move toward more team-based care delivery modes, it is vital for pharmacists to be able to demonstrate their ongoing contributions to patient care,” said Anderegg.

“Adopting and using MTM SNOMED CT codes will enable pharmacists to capture those contributions in discrete data documentation, instead of free text and narrative, which can’t be analyzed in any meaningful way.”

For years, SNOMED CT has lingered in the background of U.S. healthcare. Then, recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services declared that a significant portion of medical coding must be reported in SNOMED CT in order for EHR technology to be certified. Such certification is required for health systems to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid “meaningful use” financial incentives.

Before any of that happens, though, healthcare providers must adopt SNOMED CT, integrate the coding into their EHRs, and make it available to frontline medical staff. It’s a formidable task that has hospital IT departments and healthcare IT vendors across the country teaming up to sort out the myriad challenges. Already there are a number of products that translate – or “map” – codes from the well-known ICD-9, and its ICD-10 successor, into reportable, standardized SNOMED CT codes.

What the Codes Mean for Pharmacy’s Future

In the meantime, ASHP and the Pharmacy HIT Collaborative are pushing hard to raise awareness of SNOMED CT, according to Allie D. Woods, Pharm.D., director of ASHP’s Section of Pharmacy Informatics and Technology.

Allie D. Woods, Pharm.D.

Allie D. Woods, Pharm.D.

“Pharmacists need to know not only that these codes exist, but also what they mean for the future of our profession,” she said. “Frontline pharmacists can help by learning more about SNOMED CT from ASHP and other organizations and speaking with informaticists at their institutions, then discussing its benefits with colleagues and pharmacy managers.”

Woods noted that although the codes have been in existence for two years, few pharmacists are ready to use them yet. “Our greatest hope is that these codes will be used in the effort to obtain pharmacist’s provider status and, eventually, to bill for services. We’re just not quite there yet,” she said.

SNOMED CT eventually will become the coding norm, allowing pharmacists to produce data-rich reports pooled from multiple EHR systems.

“It all starts with incorporating the codes into pharmacy documentation within the EHR and making sure that pharmacy clinicians, IT staff, and administrators are all involved in that process,” said Anderegg. In addition, according to Anderegg, pharmacists need to begin building these codes into the EHR in an intelligent way so that the data can be reported and analyzed.

“Ultimately, we want to justify the value of our services by tying what we do to patient outcomes. If we can do that, the sky is the limit,” he said.

–By Steve Frandzel

January 28, 2015

Provider Status Bill Reintroduced in Congress

 

Paul W. Abramowitz, Pharm.D., Sc.D. (Hon.), FASHP

Paul W. Abramowitz, Pharm.D., Sc.D. (Hon.), FASHP

HAPPY NEW YEAR! As we enter 2015 we can reflect on the success we had with last year’s introduction of pharmacists’ provider status legislation, H.R. 4190. This legislation, which enjoyed great support by both Republicans and Democrats, would amend the Social Security Act to recognize pharmacists as Medicare Part B providers working within their state scopes of practice in the large number of medically underserved areas—both urban and rural—throughout the United States.

I am happy to report that this important piece of legislation, now known as the “Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act,” was reintroduced today by the original bipartisan sponsors. To add to that, we anticipate a companion bill will be introduced in the U.S. Senate by a bipartisan group of Republican and Democratic senators very soon. Now that’s the way to start the New Year off right!

ASHP and our members have taken a major leadership role in bringing this legislation to fruition and to helping advance it through Congress. The fact that all ASHP members provide exceptional care as generalists and specialists in hospitals, clinics, and other settings has made this effort possible, and it has clearly paid off.

These efforts by our stellar members who are already serving as patient care providers have been a shining example to Congress of what pharmacists can do to advance healthcare and improve patients’ lives. I am absolutely certain as I look to the future when provider status for pharmacists becomes the law of the land that ASHP members will lead the way in implementing the law and will serve as a source of inspiration to the entire healthcare community.

I would also like to recognize the efforts of our exceptional ASHP staff team that has worked tirelessly behind the scenes with Congress, CMS, and other stakeholders for more than a decade to lay the groundwork for this historic moment of opportunity. We couldn’t have gotten here without them! Regarding outreach and support from other stakeholders, the recent report by the National Governors Association expressed strong support for the expanding roles of pharmacists, including recognizing pharmacists as Medicare providers.

It is absolutely vital that every ASHP member continue to reach out to their members of Congress to express their support.

However, before we declare victory on behalf of our patients, we have a lot of work to do through 2015. It is absolutely vital that every ASHP member continue to reach out to their members of Congress to express their support and to ask them to co-sponsor (or thank them if they’re already co-sponsoring) this important legislation.

Further, we need you to form local coalitions with other patient and healthcare professional groups and colleagues you work with to get their support and to tell your stories as pharmacists and patient care providers through editorials and op-eds in your local newspapers, blogs, and social media outlets.

You can attend political rallies, fundraisers, and other events with your members of Congress and the Senate to ask them to support the legislation and to talk with them about how this legislation will help patients in your community and state. You can also support the ASHP PAC, which provides ASHP with the ability to support members of Congress who support your interests as pharmacists and patient care providers.

Most importantly, we want you to know that ASHP is here to support you every step of the way. Please visit ASHP’s advocacy center, and don’t hesitate to contact ASHP’s government affairs team.

ASHP continues to be a key leader in the Patient Access to Pharmacists’ Care Coalition (PAPCC), which currently includes almost every national pharmacy organization and a growing number of other influential stakeholders. The PAPCC will work to grow the national coalition, advocate to Congress, and create media campaigns in support of provider status.

I know you recognize the excitement and importance associated with this historic legislation, and the collective and individual role you will play in seeing the legislation get passed into law. I look forward to updating you again soon and to seeing all the great things you will be doing in your organizations, communities, and states now and in the coming months to support the legislation.

Thank you for all that you do on behalf of your patients and for being members of ASHP.

Sincerely,

Paul

November 7, 2014

From Political Novice to Seasoned Advocate: Getting Involved in Provider Status

Gloria Sachdev, Pharm.D., B.S.Pharm.

Gloria Sachdev, Pharm.D., B.S.Pharm.

MY POLITICAL “CAREER” BEGAN with some notes scribbled on a napkin at a Starbucks in the fall of 2007. It was just me and my department head putting our heads together and jotting down what would eventually evolve into a strategic plan to gain provider status for pharmacists in Indiana—a change that would open the way for Medicaid and other payers to reimburse pharmacists for clinical services.

Three years after that meeting, it seemed that the timing was right to share this plan with a broader audience. I set up a meeting with the president of the Indiana Pharmacist’s Alliance (IPA), an advocacy organization whose mission is to support and advance the profession of pharmacy in Indiana.

Though I had never met IPA’s president before, she was highly supportive and presented our idea to the Alliance’s board. They voted to add the effort to lPA’s legislative agenda.

This was great news as it meant that we would have the support of a paid lobbyist. At the time, I had no idea how critical it was to have that element on our side. Momentum was building, and though provider status was the principal goal, reaching it would require interim steps and time.

Setting the Stage for CDTM Expansion

Our first step to enacting provider status was to expand the scope of collaborative drug therapy management (CDTM) for pharmacists to encompass all practice settings. During the three years between that first coffee shop strategy session and my meeting with the IPA president in 2010, my involvement in CDTM included laying the groundwork to support CDTM expansion.

I set up the first CDTM protocol in an Indiana health system, collected outcomes data, expanded the role of pharmacists in direct patient care in my health system, and worked to help other systems achieve the same.

Shortly after meeting with the IPA president, I found myself in the world of legislation development when I was asked to be IPA’s legislative chair. My intent was to share an idea, not to lead the charge.

I accepted with a little bit of hesitancy. Despite having no idea what the bill process was, I assembled the best team of colleagues I could think of and dove in. My team drafted a CDTM bill in six weeks, worked tirelessly researching CDTM laws in other states, built a grassroots network, and developed marketing materials.

For the next several months, I was immersed in the murky, perplexing, often disorienting arena of state politics. Luckily, experienced government affairs experts from IPA and ASHP guided me through the maze.

Unlikely Bedfellows

We spent considerable time rallying support from influential professional groups, including the Indiana State Medical Association, which originally opposed our CDTM bill. I met with them and explained the role of the pharmacist in team-based care and was able to bring them around to taking a neutral position.

As a community, we wanted more pharmacists to function at the top of their licenses.

We could live with a neutral position vs. an opposing position, which would have assured death for our bill. After months of negotiations, ups and downs, and sudden, unpredictable swings of fortune and momentum—not to mention a walk out by the entire Democratic delegation of the Indiana House of Representatives because of a completely unrelated issue—the governor signed the CDTM bill into law!

It was a significant victory, but that was just the first step. As a community, we wanted more pharmacists to function at the top of their licenses. So, from 2011 to 2013, we held several educational programs, passed additional bills to expand pharmacist immunization scope, and added a statute to ensure that “pharmacist services,” not just “pharmacy service,” were recognized by Indiana state Medicaid.

Our upcoming challenge in the 2015 state legislative session is to develop a provider status bill that delineates scope and payment for pharmacist-provided MTM services for the Medicaid population. The last rung on our ladder will be to get private carriers, such as Anthem and United Health Care, to recognize pharmacists as providers.

A Key Seat at the Table

Since 2013, it has been my pleasure to be state Sen. Ron Grooms’ MTM senior policy advisor. He is a retired pharmacist and pharmacy owner. My role is to keep him current on relevant issues, assist with legislative language, develop marketing material for lobbyists and other legislators, and help organize grassroots efforts.

From left, (front row) Indiana state Sen. Ron Grooms and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence; (back row) unknown bill supporter, Gloria Sachdev, and state Rep. Steve Davisson

I also have the privilege of supporting state Rep. Steve Davisson, a practicing pharmacist in an independent pharmacy in rural Indiana. Thanks to these gentlemen and the support of the pharmacy and medical community, we’ve had tremendous success over the past four years.

Both of our pharmacist legislators were up for re-election Nov. 4, and both won handily. I was happy to help Rep. Davisson by asking a pharmacy resident at the Purdue Center for Medication Safety Advancement, a former student of mine, to help organize a student telethon. She and a pharmacy student got 20 other pharmacy students to call on voters three separate evenings. My primary role was to pay for pizza and drinks.

Though I am not sure where my policy path will lead, I am excited to be part of the process of change and share that passion with the next generation. I established an elective legislative clerkship rotation at the State House several years ago in which students have the opportunity to spend one month with various legislators.

This fall, it is my great pleasure to be the course coordinator for a new required health policy course at Purdue. In this course, students are exposed to the nuances of policy analysis and development on current hot topics.

In terms of the important advocacy work that ASHP is doing on provider status, namely bill H.R. 4190, it’s important to note that this bill defers pharmacist scope of practice to each state’s practice act. Thus, working at the local level allows us to expand our act to assure pharmacists are permitted to function at the top of their licenses. It has been my honor and privilege to work with the ASHP’s legislative team on H.R. 4190 and to be on their Council on Public Policy this year.

From Political Novice to Seasoned Advocate

It’s still hard for me to believe that before I began working on the CDTM legislation in 2010, I had never even written a letter or sent an email to a state or U.S. congressional representative, had never made a phone call, or participated in any political endeavor.

I truly believed that my contributions would not make a difference, and therefore, I did zero.

But I owe the 2010 IPA president tremendous gratitude for giving me the opportunity to be involved. There is something to be said for just diving (or being pushed) into the deep end of the pool. I now know that every voice counts, every call counts, every letter counts.

Change occurs whether we choose to be at the table or not. To have the future we want as individuals and as a profession, we’ll must rally and be present.

 –By Gloria Sachdev, Pharm.D., B.S.Pharm., Clinical Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice, Purdue University College of Pharmacy; Adjunct Assistant Professor, Indiana University School of Medicine; President and CEO, Sachdev Clinical Pharmacy, Inc.

October 29, 2014

Can Volunteering for a Political Campaign Help Your Patients?

Filed under: Current Issue,Feature Stories,Provider Status,Students — Kathy Biesecker @ 5:06 pm
Kathryn Schultz and Sen. Al Franken take a moment to pose for a picture.

Kathryn Schultz and Sen. Al Franken take a moment to pose for a picture.

THE EXPERIENCE THAT KATHRYN R. SCHULTZ, Pharm.D., MPH, FASHP, has had in the advocacy realm proves the old adage that all politics is local.

The ASHP past president and current director of pharmacy for St. Croix Regional Medical Center in St. Croix Falls, Wisc., has been actively involved in advocating on behalf of pharmacists and pharmacy for more than 10 years. She has participated in many of ASHP’s Legislative Days and took those opportunities to speak with Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), and their staffs both in Washington, D.C., and at their offices in her home state of Minnesota.

Most recently, Schultz volunteered for Sen. Al Franken’s reelection campaign. For Franken, Schultz worked the phones to reach out to voters, talk about the importance of going to the polls, and discuss where the senator stands on various issues.

“I like the phone bank, in particular, because the campaign staff members really prepare you well. Although I’m well-versed in healthcare, I need a little help in discussing other public issues,” Schultz said. “It’s good because you don’t feel like you need to be a political expert on everything, and though I’m not comfortable knocking on doors, I do like talking to people.”

The phone bank enables Schultz to reach as many people as possible, which she feels is crucial to Franken’s reelection. “In the last election, he only won by 312 votes after a protracted recount, so the focus has been on making sure people know that their votes are really important.”

Relying on Your Knowledge and Training

Schultz feels it’s paramount that pharmacists stay abreast of what their senators and representatives are doing that can affect the profession and to speak out on pharmacy’s behalf. Given the current status of H.R. 4190 and ASHP’s focused advocacy to achieve provider status, Schultz thinks it’s more important than ever for pharmacists to get involved in politics at the local level.

I’m really happy to be doing something that can positively affect pharmacy and patient care in this country.

Schultz acknowledges that reaching out to elected officials and getting involved in the campaigns of pharmacy-friendly candidates may seem intimidating. However, she reminds pharmacists to trust in their knowledge and training.

“I was concerned that my meetings with the senator and his staff would be very formal and that they might be skeptical of what I had to say about pharmacists’ critical role in patient care. But they weren’t,” Schultz said. “They really respect that pharmacists are medication experts, and they look to us for important information.”

Schultz believes that all pharmacists can bring better awareness about patients’ medication needs to their elected officials. “You know the issues that affect pharmacy and patient care better than they do. And, with ASHP behind you to provide any information you may need, you have all the necessary tools at your disposal. Don’t be shy!”

Building rapport is also essential to achieving a productive give-and-take, according to Schultz.

“I look at the process as a relationship: First, you provide the necessary information that your elected officials need. Then, you can ask them if they will support measures to improve pharmacy practice and patient care.”

Getting Behind a Pharmacy-Friendly Candidate

Knowing the issues and interacting with senators and representatives regularly on behalf of the profession make it easier to get out there and campaign, Schultz noted. She volunteered for the Franken campaign in part because of his past involvement in proposing legislation to help pharmacists manage the challenges of sterile compounding.

Kathryn Schultz joins Franken campaign organizer Patrick Chilton to call potential voters with information about Franken’s stance on healthcare and other issues.

Along with Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Franken introduced S. 959 in 2013, the Pharmaceutical Compounding Quality and Accountability Act. This legislation was designed to create a new category of producer called “compounding manufacturer” that must register with and be inspected by the Food and Drug Administration.

According to Schultz, although pharmacists and pharmacy students may worry that political involvement may negatively affect their jobs or careers, in reality, it may actually help.

“I like to think of this kind of activism as a way to differentiate yourself from the herd. For me, it shows that I truly care about macro issues in pharmacy, that I’m not one-dimensional, and that I am active in my community.”

Schultz stresses the importance of involvement for pharmacy students, in particular.

“You’ll be in your career for 20 or 30 years, so it behooves you to do whatever you can to try to help your legislators understand the pharmacy issues that will help achieve better patient care—such as provider status—and to make the changes that will help,” she said. “What Congress does will affect your professional future.”

Overall, Schultz said that she wouldn’t trade her political experiences and time spent volunteering regardless of the outcome of the election.

“With so many people to help you and to give you the tools that you need, it’s easy and it’s actually fun. I’ve met people I never would have met otherwise, people with whom I share common goals and political views. I’m really happy to be doing something that can positively affect pharmacy and patient care in this country.”

–By Terri D’Arrigo

 

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