I’ve been following pharmacy practice in Colorado for over 40 years. From the outside as a friend, spouse and consumer. In observing business practices, legislative process, pharmacists’ positioning themselves as health-care providers and the evolution of pharmacy school programs, state and federal rules, regulations and laws – I’ve reached an impasse on provider status.
Most everyone would agree that a pharmacist should be paid to “work as a pharmacist,” even when there is little understanding among the general public of what that means. And that’s the crux.
Provider status is ultimately about what the pharmacist should be paid for their counseling, expertise and work in a collaborative arrangement. After all, consumers have long believed “it’s included for free” if they’ve received counseling or collaborative therapy from pharmacists in the past.
Consider the most common patient-pharmacist interaction. Alice goes to the pharmacy to pick up her prescription. She is asked to sign a form but doesn’t read nor understand the details. That is, she ignores the contents. The pharmacist (or technician) reads her prescription label to her, takes payment and hands her this card, encouraging Alice to simply receive her future prescriptions in the mail.
With no more than a few minutes spent with a pharmacist who does little more than read what Alice could read herself, Alice is left with the sense of “a person licensed to prepare and dispense drugs and medicines” (dictionary.com definition) .
She may question if she received counseling at all. She probably won’t even consider if the pharmacist worked with her physician(s) in a collaborative manner to appropriately define and dose her medication therapy.
So Alice does not become an advocate for pharmacists as there was no appointment, no direct care and no visible benefit derived from her interaction. Why pay extra for that? How do pharmacists turn around the public perception to value pharmacists as providers?