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Creating an Army of Provider Status Advocates: One Member’s Story

Aug 25, 2015
Felicity Homsted, Pharm.D., BCPS

Felicity Homsted, Pharm.D., BCPS

AN UNEXPECTED EMAIL REQUEST this past June launched Felicity Homsted, Pharm.D., BCPS, on an unanticipated mission: to muster the support of Maine legislators for the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act.

If signed into law, the bill, now before congressional committees in the House and Senate, would grant pharmacists provider status in medically underserved areas and make them eligible for reimbursement under Medicare Part B.

“I didn’t hesitate. I just said, ‘Yes!’ and leveraged all of the relationships I’ve built over the years to get more people to push for provider status,” said Dr. Homsted, director of pharmacy at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor, Maine.

By the end of the day, she had called or emailed colleagues and administrators at more than a dozen health centers, health advocacy groups, and insurers; handwritten letters to Maine’s four-person congressional delegation; and quickly persuaded the CEO and CMO of her facility to do the same.

Within a week, Dr. Homsted had reached out to directors of pharmacy representing all of the health systems in the state. By the end of the second week, she added three presentations, a television interview, and more emails and calls. The entire PCHC pharmacy staff joined the efforts with technicians, pharmacists and residents all voicing their support. In under a month, she had confirmed that at least 50 support letters from all across the state had gone out to the Maine congressional delegation.

The results of her team’s hard work followed quickly. On July 7, Sen. Susan Collins signed on as a cosponsor of the Senate version of the bill S. 314. Sen. Angus King responded with a declaration of support for the bill.

Persistence Pays Off

The initial email appeal that Dr. Homsted received came from Joseph Hill, director of ASHP’s Government Relations Division. He knows he got far more than he bargained for.

“Felicity has been a pacesetter for the kinds of outreach we need from members to help us drive support for provider status,” said Hill. “The thing I find most inspiring about her advocacy is the persistence she demonstrated in reaching out to people and organizations. Felicity sets the gold standard for grass roots activity. If she can inspire others to do half of what she does, we will definitely get these bills across the finish line.”

Dr. Homsted tailored her pitch for every person she coaxed toward advocacy. “If I had just asked them, ‘Will you support us?’ many people – even many pharmacists wouldn’t understand why this is such a big deal,” she said. “But when I explain how provider status will help improve patient care and reduce healthcare costs on the individual level for their patients or organization, people really begin to understand the value of the legislation.”

Issues that matter-edits

Left, Robert Picone, host of the weekly public television show “Issues that Matter,” invited Dr. Homsted (right) to enlighten his viewers about provider status.

In the midst of Dr. Homsted’s advocacy blitz, another unexpected overture led to the most memorable moments of her campaign. Robert Picone, a board member of the Greater New England Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation and host of the weekly public television showIssues that Matter,” invited her as a guest on the program to enlighten viewers about provider status.

ASHP staff prepared Dr. Homsted for the interview by coaching her to ignore the cameras and take the time to consider each answer. They also recommended that she focus on a few simple, consistent messages and circle back to them at every opportunity; keep her answers succinct so that viewers understand what is at stake; and remember a few on-camera tips, including smiling slightly and avoiding clothing with patterns.

After the show appeared on YouTube, Dr. Homsted said she was amazed by how many people got in touch with her to find out what they could do to help. The most poignant response came from a good friend who texted, “I’ve never really understood what you do until I watched the show. Now I know how important your job is, and I want to thank you for all the things you’re doing to make healthcare better.”

Educating the Public about Pharmacists’ Roles

According to Dr. Homsted, consumers and legislators don’t fully understand the contemporary roles of pharmacists. “People are just beginning to appreciate that we add far more to the healthcare equation than just counting pills,” she noted, adding that educating the public as well as pharmacists about what provider status means is critical for passage of the legislation.

Dr. Homsted (second from far right) is supported in her provider status outreach efforts by her pharmacy residents and other members of her team at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor, Maine.

Dr. Homsted (second from far right) is supported in her provider status outreach efforts by her pharmacy residents, members of the Penobscot Community Health Care C-suite, and other members of her pharmacy team.

“Pharmacist provider status goes well beyond reimbursement; it is a mechanism to expedite pharmacist integration into care teams, ultimately improving care value, quality, safety and most importantly patient health.”

Dr. Homsted and her team’s advocacy efforts continue. She recently began enlisting universities and recruiting pharmacy students and residents (within and beyond Maine) to the ranks of active supporters.

“We want to create a small army of pharmacists who can go out and inform people about the importance of provider status,” she said. “I tell them to start with people they know well and with whom they can have an immediate impact, and then let those successes fuel more ambitious targets. Our goal is to get the entire Maine delegation to cosponsor the legislation. Anything else is unacceptable.”

–By Steve Frandzel

Editor’s Note: Want to find out how to support ASHP’s provider status efforts in your state? Check out our advocacy toolkit with a variety of activities to get you started!





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