Support and Advocacy for Health System Pharmacists

Providing enhanced pharmacy support through public policy and supply chain analytics.

By: Dave Ehlert

Read time: 4 minutes

From public policy to supply chain analytics, McKesson provides enhanced support

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists were expanding their roles as first-line providers of care and consultation in their communities. As infection rates rose and vaccines became available, health system pharmacists stepped up even more to fill the growing need for testing sites, vaccination clinics, and therapeutic treatments. Now, it’s the industry’s turn to step up—with public policy and operational support to help maximize the impact of health system pharmacists throughout the continuum of care.

Health System Pharmacists: A Vital Community Link

For many Americans, especially those in rural and other underserved communities, community-based pharmacists are a key source of information and care, providing patient counseling, vaccinations, and more. Health system pharmacists play an equally vital role across the country, and their role has been expanding for years. Health system pharmacists are vital members of the patient care team in hospitals, clinics, as well as specialty and outpatient pharmacies. The arrival of COVID-19 further drew upon the expertise of health system pharmacists as they helped hospitals and clinics navigate the uncharted territory of a global pandemic.

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Throughout the pandemic, health system pharmacists have led vaccine clinics and testing sites, collaborated with prescribers on appropriate COVID treatments as well as supportive care, worked to procure supply constrained drugs, and stepped up to manage a maze of rapidly changing guidelines. Roles and responsibilities have expanded at a dizzying pace—and legislative and operational support systems are just beginning to catch up.

Rethinking Public Policy to Expand Medicare Provider Status

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pharmacists had administered upwards of 245 million COVID-19 shots through April 2022. Yet under existing Medicare laws, pharmacists are ineligible for federal reimbursement for pandemic-related services for our nation’s seniors. That could change, however if the Equitable Community Access to Pharmacist Services Act (ECAPS) is signed into law.

Introduced in March 2022 in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 7213 is a bipartisan bill that aims to extend provider status under Medicare Part B to pharmacists during special circumstances, such as pandemic response and other public health emergencies. This would allow health systems to receive reimbursement for pharmacist-administered services just as they would for physician-rendered care covered under Part B for testing, vaccination and treatment of COVID-19, influenza, and more.

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The ECAPS legislation would allow health systems to build upon lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic to better serve Medicare beneficiaries during public health emergencies. The act would not extend to routine services such as medication and chronic disease management or general health and wellness screenings—nor would it replace efforts to pass other provider status-related legislation. It would, however, provide flexibility to extend similar Medicare coverage and reimbursement for future public health emergencies as determined by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

Pharmacist-administered care covered under H.R. 7213:

  • Testing for COVID-19, influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, and strep throat
  • Treatment of COVID-19, influenza, and strep throat
  • Vaccinations for COVID-19 and influenza
  • Future services that address a public health need

A Team Approach to Shape the Future of Pharmacy

The emergence of the pandemic not only challenged pharmacists and other front-line healthcare workers to leverage their expertise in new ways—it also drove significant public and private collaboration. Together, a broad cross-section of healthcare companies, professional associations such as the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, and pharmaceutical distributors formed advocacy organizations such as the Future of Pharmacy Care Coalition to educate Americans about H.R. 7213 and to encourage them to urge lawmakers to preserve patient access to pharmacist-administered services. McKesson is an active part of this collaboration to strengthen communities by advocating federal policies to equip pharmacists for serving more patients when and where the need is greatest.

Managing the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain

In addition to supporting these efforts to expand channels of care for seniors in times of crisis, McKesson is also pioneering new ways to project, prepare for, and respond to drug shortages. From pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions to panic-driven over-purchasing, global shortages of critical drugs and personal protective equipment made an already overwhelming situation even more problematic for U.S. health systems. In response, McKesson created a Critical Care Drug Task Force to enhance distribution transparency and equity. The cross-functional team draws upon the clinical expertise of McKesson’s health system pharmacists, supply chain specialists, and data analysts to track and project drug utilization while mitigating the impact of drug shortages. Timely, candid communication is at the heart of the task force, giving health system pharmacists and their teams reliable data they need to adapt to dynamic conditions.

Analytics to Support Patient Care and Business Health

Industrywide drug shortages may occur for any number of reasons, including global supply constraints, product-specific issues and ongoing supplier rationalization. While no pharmaceutical distributor is immune to these challenges, the McKesson operations team uses advanced analytics to help health systems ensure continuity of care. These analytics can be used to evaluate buying behavior, project which drugs may become constrained, and prioritize orders based on predetermined criteria. They can also help organizations manage their drug spend or analyze drug utilization to enhance business performance.

As Roles Expand, So Should Resources

The demands of COVID-19 and other public health concerns continue to strain health systems nationwide—and health system pharmacists continue to rise to the occasion. Their expertise deserves both legislative advocacy and operational support to help health systems provide for their communities.

Contact us to learn how we support pharmacy and help health systems achieve more.

Watch the video to see how health system pharmacists are leaders in healthcare.