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Former CMS, FDA chief McClellan delivers keynote at Cardinal Health RBC


SEATTLE — Changes in healthcare delivery today are influencing the way community pharmacy serves patients. That was the key message healthcare policy wizard Mark McClellan, M.P.A., M.D., PhD., had for attendees of an Aug. 9 industry general session in Seattle at Cardinal Health's annual Retail Business Conference. In a presentation titled "Driving the Conversation: A Look at the Future of Healthcare in America," the former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration focused on the crucial role community pharmacy will play in shaping that future.

McClellan, senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Brookings Institute, talked about how new horizons in patient care will emerge and how community pharmacy is positioned to take advantage of those changes.

Implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will be a multi-year process, McClellan explained, and it’s going to be challenging, as the healthcare economy transitions from one based on saving cost by lowering payments for services to one based on saving cost by incentivizing providers to drive improved outcomes. “The future is going to depend a lot on how quickly we can move to these better ways of delivering care and matching them up with financing,” he said. “It’s a critical time in healthcare reform, but I can’t think of anyone who’s better positioned to lead the way, despite all these challenges, than the nation’s community pharmacists.”

That is because community pharmacy continues to blaze new pathways to more efficient and less costly modes of care, including medication therapy management programs, medication adherence programs and medication reconciliation when patients are discharged from the hospital. For preventive care and wellness, pharmacies are one of the fastest-growing destinations for vaccinations, McClellan said, as well as for disease-state screening services and retail clinics.

McClellan’s comments helped set the stage for a lively discussion, led by Cardinal Health Pharmaceutical Distribution SVP of marketing and customer solutions Christi Pedra, of two important healthcare trends that are helping to carve out a special niche for independent pharmacy owners: the emergence of the healthcare concierge and behavioral health coaching.

The healthcare concierge serves as a guide to healthcare resources for patients, and can become a powerful influencer as to where patients fill their prescriptions, she explained. “Consider how the healthcare concierge can redefine your role in patient care,” she said. “As the concept of the healthcare concierge evolves, we see that independent pharmacists will play a pivotal role.”

Behavioral health care is another burgeoning sector. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 20% of children today have been diagnosed with some form of behavioral disorder, including depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity. “Because of your special bond with patients and their families, you have the opportunity to raise behavioral health issues with sensitivity and understanding,” Pedra said. “You know where the best resources are, and you can point them in the right directions.”

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