Amid greater demand for healthcare and a shortage in physicians, pharmacists have expanded their role in healthcare delivery by providing vaccinations, health education and disease-state testing. Pharmacists also provide face-to-face medication management services (MTM) that promote medication adherence, which leads to better care and lower costs.

A report released last week from the National Governors Association looks at the ways the profession has expanded beyond dispensing medications to also include providing direct patient care. The report urges an exploration of strategies that would enable pharmacists to work to the top of their license to better serve patients in the states.

The report contends that integrating pharmacists into chronic care delivery teams has the potential to improve health outcomes because of the critical role medication management plays in treating chronic disease. The report points to studies that indicate pharmacists who provide MTM services can improve outcomes and reduce costs.

The lack of pharmacist recognition as a provider by third party payers, including Medicare and Medicaid, has limited the number and types of services pharmacists can provide, even though they are fully qualified to deliver these services. NACDS continues to push for passage of legislation this year in both the House and Senate that would expand the scope of practice for pharmacists, within the provisions of state laws.

Establishing provider status in Medicare Part B for pharmacists, especially in medically-underserved communities, could not only increase access to healthcare services, but also lead to reduced overall healthcare costs and improved healthcare quality.