Recognizing Pharmacists as Healthcare Providers

| Posted On Nov 25, 2019 | By:

Pictured left to right are Dr. Jonathan Lichkos from Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, Amy Vachon, PharmD, Director of Clinical Pharmacy Services at Atrius Health, Alicia Mam daCunha, PharmD. Past President of the Massachusetts Pharmacists Association and Sonia Freitas Alva, PharmD, Manager, ACO and Ambulatory Clinical Pharmacy, Boston Medical Center.

Amy Vachon, PharmD, Director of Clinical Pharmacy Services at Atrius Health, was among a distinguished group of panelists who recently testified before the Joint Committee on Public Health in support of legislation HB1849/S1297“An Act Recognizing Pharmacists as Healthcare Providers.”  This legislation was introduced by Senator Joan Lovely (D-Peabody) and Representative Christine Barber (D-Somerville). Testimony and panelist presentations were organized by Kathy Keough, Director of Government Relations for Atrius Health.

The legislation would not only recognize pharmacists in the list of healthcare providers in state law, but it would also pave the way for pharmacists to ultimately bill for their services. Joining Dr. Vachon were more than two dozen pharmacists from various pharmacy organizations including Massachusetts Pharmacists Association, Massachusetts Independent Pharmacists Association, Massachusetts Health Systems Pharmacists as well as all four colleges of pharmacy, all of whom have expressed their overwhelming support for the bill.

During a packed hearing at the State House, Dr. Vachon testified that Atrius Health currently employs 19 clinical pharmacists within our organization who work side by side with our physicians. Most of our clinical pharmacists prescribe under a Collaborative Drug Therapy Management (CDTM) agreement to manage a patient’s drug therapy, and all have at least one year of post-graduate residency training or equivalent experience in an ambulatory care clinical pharmacy.

Spending just one hour with one of our clinical pharmacists would clarify the importance of their role in managing some of our most complex patients to clinical goals for diabetes, hypertension, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and other conditions. Our clinical pharmacists often succeed where other healthcare providers have not, specifically because of their specialized knowledge and training.

This legislation would include the word “pharmacist” under Massachusetts General Laws under the definition of “health care provider” that currently includes licensed health care professionals such as registered nurses, social workers, and chiropractors as well as other health care providers.

“While the legislation does not mandate reimbursement by either public or private payers in the state, this small yet important amendment to state law is critically important practically and symbolically to every practicing pharmacist, every pharmacy organization, and every college of pharmacy in the state as well as many health systems statewide including Atrius Health,” Dr. Vachon testified.

In written testimony, Dr. Joe Kimura, Chief Medical Officer at Atrius Health, shared “We are able to utilize these vital pharmacists and absorb the cost of a non-billing provider because it is both the right thing to do for our patients and we have clear data to show that this results in a reduction in our total medical expenses and helps reduce out-of-pocket costs for many of our patients. We also believe that there are significant cost savings to the healthcare system in the long term when qualified pharmacists are ultimately able to be compensated for this role – which they currently are not. This bill paves the way for us and others to work with the payers in order to be considered for reimbursement for these services in the future.”

“I can tell you from first-hand experience that if you ask any of our patients, our physicians or others on the health care team, pharmacists, who are the medication experts, ARE healthcare providers and it’s time that Massachusetts joined the majority of the states throughout the country in recognizing us as such,” Dr. Vachon concluded.

Massachusetts is only one of a handful of states nationally that does not recognize pharmacists as healthcare providers. Currently, more than 40 states including Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, all recognize pharmacists as healthcare providers, and we strongly encourage the Public Health Committee to act quickly and favorably on this long-overdue legislation.

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