On behalf of Cureatr, I want to express our sincerest thanks and appreciation for the more than 300,000 pharmacists in this country. Every day, we play pivotal roles in the healthcare continuum — helping keep patients safe and healthy by providing timely information and resources, sound advice, expert guidance concerning medications and adherence to regimens, and a broad spectrum of services.
October is American Pharmacists Month and this week is National Pharmacy Week, making this a great time to acknowledge some of the most significant and recent recognitions, contributions, and progress made by pharmacists. They include the following:
- Pharmacists remain near the top of the Gallup's annual survey about the honesty and ethical standards of professions. Pharmacists only trail nurses, engineers, and medical doctors. The findings prompted the National Association of Drug Chain Stores to call on federal and state government officials to "… leverage pharmacies more completely for patient health, and to reverse unfair pharmacy reimbursement practices that are jeopardizing patients' access to care."
- In April, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) authorized (albeit with some limitations) licensed pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 tests. HHS Secretary Alex Azar stated, "Giving pharmacists the authorization to order and administer COVID-19 tests to their patients means easier access to testing for Americans who need it. Pharmacists play a vital role in delivering convenient access to important public health services and information."
- Pharmacists are performing critical tasks during the COVID-19 pandemic, frequently adopting innovative strategies and tools to help reduce the adverse impact of the health crisis. Among them, as highlighted in Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy: acting directly with the community (e.g., setting up mobile testing sites, providing curbside delivery); continuing to care for patients with chronic diseases, often virtually; working in hospital pharmacies and providing pharmaceutical care to COVID-19 patients; and sharing reliable information for preventing, detecting, treating, and managing coronavirus infections.
- In September, HHS authorized pharmacists to order and administer approved COVID-19 vaccines. As Dr. Scott Knoer of the American Pharmacists Association stated, "[This] properly recognizes that pharmacists serve a vital role in the nation's response to this pandemic. It increases patients' access to care during this emergency with providers whom they trust, at a time and place that is convenient to them."
- Telepharmacy is receiving increased attention for the value it delivers. Early in the pandemic, the federal government championed telepharmacy as a way for pharmacists to minimize their risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus and reduce the risk for patients. Dr. Sandra Leal of the American Pharmacists Association stated, "Pharmacists are a great resource for patients who have questions about drug interactions, vaccines, and testing. Telepharmacy allows those conversations to happen in a safer way, with patients located in the comfort of their home, keeping the public and pharmacists safe." Thanks to the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, which at least temporarily removed many of the coverage, licensing laws, and reimbursement barriers stifling telehealth, more people are gaining a better understanding of and admiration for the wide range of virtual services pharmacists can deliver safely and effectively.
And yet, despite these and many other noteworthy developments, we believe pharmacists remain hamstrung by unnecessary restrictions in delivering care, including federal and state legal barriers and administrative obstacles for collecting reimbursement. That's why Cureatr will continue pushing for granting pharmacists with national provider status and eliminating all state-level limitations on pharmacist provider status — both of which are long overdue.
We believe granting pharmacists with provider status is the most effective means of unleashing the potential for pharmacists and pharmacies to accelerate our efforts to defeat COVID-19 and achieve larger and longer-term improvements in the access, delivery, and coordination of care. By working together toward this share goal, hopefully we will have reason to celebrate come next year's American Pharmacists Month.
Thank you again to pharmacists for the increasingly important and often underappreciated work you do. Patients and our healthcare system as a whole benefit from our knowledge, expertise, and personalized approach to medicine.