Pharmacists: The Missing Link to More Cost-Effective Healthcare?

A new report from the National Governors Association argues that states could help their residents' healthcare dollars go further by giving pharmacists a larger role in patient treatment. Two leading pharmacists groups agree.

The National Governors Association (NGA) says there’s an easy way to expand the current healthcare infrastructure, and it’s as close as your local drug store.

A new NGA policy paper, “The Expanding Role of Pharmacists in a Transformed Health Care System,” released last week, argues that regulations governing pharmacy practice should change to allow pharmacists to make full use of their clinical training.

“The level of education required to practice as a pharmacist has risen significantly over the past few decades, shifting from a bachelor of science (B.S.) degree to a doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree,” the paper notes [PDF].

This increase in education level creates an opportunity to expand the healthcare services offered to most consumers, NGA says. However, the industry’s current scope of practice is limited by state laws, formal regulations, and local ordinances. A few states have allowed pharmacists who have earned an advanced practice pharmacy (APP) designation to offer some direct patient care. In New Mexico, for example, pharmacists can prescribe medications if they collaborate with a physician.

If such programs were expanded nationally, they could prove extremely helpful in certain cases—in particular by providing ongoing support for patients with chronic symptoms.

“As the healthcare system undergoes a major transformation in both finance and the delivery of services, states are focusing on improved quality and health outcomes,” NGA Executive Director Dan Crippen said in a news release. “Integrating pharmacists, who represent the third largest health profession, into the healthcare delivery system is one way to meet those goals.”

NGA’s strategy has the support of two leading trade groups, the American Pharmacists Association  and the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations, which issued a joint statement.

“The recently published report from the National Governors Association reaffirms what has been shown [in] research and in practice: When pharmacists are included on the healthcare team, outcomes improve and costs go down,” said NASPA Director of Policy and State Relations Krystalyn K. Weaver, PharmD.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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