A dearth of primary care doctors and high medical costs is shining a spotlight on pharmacists, among other providers, as a "sensible solution" for affordable health care delivery, according to a New York Times editorial.


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Pharmacists seen as 'sensible solution' for health care delivery

December 18th, 2012

ARLINGTON, Va. – A dearth of primary care doctors and high medical costs is shining a spotlight on pharmacists, among other providers, as a "sensible solution" for affordable health care delivery, according to a New York Times editorial.

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores applauded the Dec. 15 Times editorial as recognition of the broad skill set and high degree of training and education that pharmacists bring to the table as providers of health care services, beyond traditional dispensing of medications. 

"This New York Times editorial adds to the increasing recognition that face-to-face, pharmacist-provided services can complement the vital role of physicians in a team-based approach to patient health," NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson said in a statement. "Doctors, pharmacists and other partners in emerging health care models each provide tremendous expertise and advantages. Their unique strengths and collaboration among them can benefit the patient and can help to advance the nation’s approach to health care delivery."

Pointing to "a shortage of doctors in many parts of the United States," the New York Times editorial said, "A sensible solution to this crisis — particularly to address the short supply of primary care doctors — is to rely much more on nurse practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, community members and even the patients themselves to do many of the routine tasks traditionally reserved for doctors."

NACDS noted that pharmacists provide medication counseling, immunizations, health screenings, health education and additional services.

"A report by the chief pharmacist of the United States Public Health Service a year ago argued persuasively that pharmacists are 'remarkably underutilized' given their education, training and closeness to the community," the Times article stated.

The editorial also cited retail health clinics, such as CVS Caremark's MinuteClinic and Walgreens' Take Care Clinics, as an avenue for convenient access to care for many patients.

"Hundreds of clinics, mostly staffed by nurse practitioners, have been opened in drug stores and big retail stores around the country, putting basic care within easy reach of tens of millions of people," the article stated. 

Anderson stressed that the discussion about collaboration and greater reliance on pharmacists, nurse practitioners and other providers isn't intended as an attempt to replace the expertise of physicians.

"What this is about is working together in new and powerful ways to improve patient health and to improve health care quality, and the New York Times editorial board reflected that well," he commented.

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