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SAN DIEGO —If ever there was a time for retail pharmacists to assert their role and ride to the rescue of a broken healthcare system, that time is now.
That, in essence, was the dominant theme of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ 2010 Pharmacy and Technology Conference here. NACDS leaders urged the hundreds of pharmacy retailers, suppliers and guests who attended the 53rd annual pharmacy event to press their case, both locally and nationally, for a larger stake in the healthcare system and fair reimbursement for a steadily growing list of health-and-wellness services by pharmacists.
“We must define the value for pharmacy in a reformed healthcare delivery system,” said NACDS chairman and CVS Caremark president and COO Larry Merlo at the conference’s opening business session Aug. 29. “We’ve identified several areas where pharmacy is in the best position to effectively and positively contribute to all three pillars of that healthcare equation: access, quality and cost. But most important of all, we must ensure that the value of the pharmacy industry, and its pharmacists, [is] recognized by payer reimbursement policies—not just for the products we sell, but for the services we provide.”
The healthcare system, said industry leaders at the four-day event, is in a state of crisis and will demand the kinds of cost-effective, patient-focused solutions that retail pharmacies can provide. Indeed, said NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson, retail pharmacy is going through a “historic paradigm change” as pharmacists and pharmacy leaders expand their patient care and clinical capabilities, and provide new solutions to a “broken” healthcare system undergoing rapid change. That change, he told attendees, would usher in a “renaissance” in how pharmacy is practiced and how pharmacists collaborate with other healthcare professions. “We need to build a case for a modern and viable reimbursement system” that takes into account pharmacy’s contributions to health and cost-effectiveness, Anderson asserted.
On the show floor
To that end, Anderson announced the launch of a new component of the bipartisan grassroots lobbying campaign, dubbed RxIMPACT Votes! “This is what political professionals refer to as a get-out-the-vote campaign,” he explained. “It encourages NACDS member company staff to register to vote, encourages them to volunteer for political campaigns of their choosing and then inspires them to vote on Election Day.”
The pharmacy gathering, which concluded Aug. 31, provided a packed schedule of information-sharing sessions and educational seminars, and showcased a host of new products and solutions for pharmacy retailers.