Retail pharmacy emerging as healthcare necessity

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT One of the chain pharmacy industry’s top advocates is pushing hard to thaw the frozen, century-old public perception of community pharmacists as little more than pill dispensers. And she’s getting a receptive hearing about pharmacy’s critical role among business and healthcare leaders, consumer advocates and the mainstream media.

(THE NEWS: Profession is in ‘revolutionary’ times, says NACDS’ top pharmacy official. For the full story, click here)

The message is being delivered by Edith Rosato, SVP pharmacy affairs for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and head of the NACDS Foundation. On Jan. 19, Rosato addressed a daylong meeting of the Massachusetts Health Council on the fast-changing environment for pharmacy practice, sharing a bill with other experts from the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy, The Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and other agencies.

Her message: Retail pharmacy is undergoing a transformation — and emerging as a key resource in a more outcomes-oriented, patient-centered, community-based healthcare system. The profession must “adapt our protocols and practices to better position pharmacy in medication adherence activities, which improve health outcomes for patients while also reducing overall healthcare expenditures,” she told the gathering.

Considering Rosato’s audience — the council is composed of more than 300 leaders in health care, business, government and consumer health — it was probably well worth NACDS’ time and expense to deliver that message. Ironically, it came on the day that voters in the state effectively rejected some of the Obama administration’s health-reform efforts by electing Scott Brown, a Republican who has vowed to fight health reform legislation, to succeed Edward M. Kennedy in the U.S. Senate.

Rosato was also featured recently in a Washington Post article that highlights the growing role community pharmacists play in the nation’s troubled healthcare system as accessible patient-care providers. In that article, she dubs pharmacists “the face of neighborhood healthcare,” and cites the “metamorphosis” in the profession over the past two decades “as health care has become more complicated and the use of medications has exploded.”

Quoting Lynnae Mahaney, president of the American Society of Health System Pharmacists, the Post article also introduces to the newspaper’s readers the concept of pharmacists as “physician extenders” who provide a critical link between patients and their doctors.