The Evolving Role of Pharmacists in the Transformation to Payment for Quality and Cost-Effectiveness and the Attendant Legal Hurdles

By: Paul DeMuro, Ph.D., J.D., M.B.A., CPA, and Yesenia Prados, Pharm.D

The traditional role of pharmacists

When one thinks of pharmacists, one typically thinks of the individual in the retail pharmacy who fills his or her prescription that was “written” by a clinician. This traditional role of pharmacists was managing the production and dispensing of drugs. Pharmacists have only been considered dispensers, and not providers and thus their practice has been limited. Patients often viewed their pharmacists as businessmen and not as healthcare professionals. They thought their only role was to make a sale and patients were only there to make a purchase. Since patients often walked into a retail pharmacy where many things were being sold in addition to pharmaceuticals, this perception was probably not incorrect.

What pharmacists are doing today?

Today, the role of pharmacists is evolving such that pharmacists are much more involved in the management of patient care. Patients often see pharmacists as their go to health professional who is easily accessible. As pharmacists are now able to identify and meet a patient’s drug-related needs, they are attempting to lead the way and provide better patient care with their significant clinical knowledge, which has not been used to its full potential in the past. Pharmacists are now able to play an integral role in the healthcare system. The concept of clinical pharmacy has taken hold as the profession continues to move towards being patient-focused. In 2010, the Affordable Care Act identified pharmacists as medication therapy management (MTM) providers, allowing them to become formal members of the new integrated health care delivery models.

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