NCPA President and Oklahoma City, OK pharmacy owner Lonny Wilson, PD delivered a wide-ranging and well-received speech about the value independent community pharmacists provide to the U.S. health care system, today during NCPA’s 114th Annual Convention and Trade Exposition.
Here are some excerpts from his speech:
As a little boy, my first memory of a pharmacist was visiting Lett Drug in Del City, Oklahoma. Jim Lett was the pharmacist and owner, and my parents would take me to see Mr. Lett when I had poison ivy, coughs and colds, sunburn, bee stings, and all those typical childhood ailments.
He would very compassionately examine my affliction, recommend a course of treatment, and I would always feel better and get well soon.
He was a nice man, respected in his community, and from that early age, I thought I would like to be a pharmacist one day. It’s easy to lose sight sometimes of all the really special things about our profession and what it means to so many, when we constantly have to focus on dealing with third party issues, eroding reimbursements, MAC values, and competitive bidding—to name just a few.
But, we also need to focus on the other important things. The relationships we have with our patients, for example. Or, the special ‘thank you’ we get when we make a difference in the health and lives of our patients and their families.
I am not sure that the insurance payers, brokers, PBMs, and policymakers really understand the strong bond that we that we have with our patients. Sadly, I am not sure they care.
That special bond with patients is a great example of why pharmacists can play a key role in the ongoing transformation of health care.
Study after study and survey after survey clearly show that patients would prefer to utilize the face-to-face patient care services of their community retail pharmacy.
Last month, for example, J.D. Power and Associates released its annual pharmacy customer satisfaction survey. It found—and I quote: “Satisfaction among customers using mail order pharmacies to fill their prescriptions continues to decline, falling significantly below customer satisfaction with brick-and-mortar pharmacies.”
The study goes on to report that overall customer satisfaction is significantly lower among customers who are required to use mail order, than among those customers who choose to use mail order. The J.D. Power report, by the way, is based on responses by more than 12,000 customers who had filled prescriptions in the previous three months.
Another survey found that patients oppose mandatory mail 82% of the time. In addition, 3 out of 4 patients believe it should be illegal for PBMs to set lower copayments at mail order pharmacies in which they have a financial interest and set higher copayments at community pharmacies that compete with them.
When will brokers and payers and regulators finally realize that this is a blatant conflict of interest?
Back home last year, we proved what Main Street pharmacies working together can do. It was when the Oklahoma State Employees and Educators Insurance Group planned to implement a de facto mandated mail order plan with severe copayment penalties at retail.
The PBM/mail order proposal offered savings of $15 million and would have devastated pharmacies across the state, especially in those rural communities where alternatives are few and miles between.
Our proposal—which was accepted— saved the state $33 million dollars, kept the business in our local communities, at an acceptable rate of reimbursement, and removed copayment penalties.
Having accurate data and the ability to offer a solution were important. But what really drove us to success politically were the relationships that these state employees have with their pharmacists— and the relationships these pharmacists have with their state legislators.
One area in particular where we must stay committed and diligent is in medication adherence. We know that it is a $290 billion dollar a year problem, but we have the relationships with our patients to address it in a meaningful way.
Do not let control of patient adherence slip through your fingers. Do not let it be taken away from community pharmacists by inaction.
There was a report late last year from the U.S. Public Health Service to the Surgeon General that said pharmacists— through their accessibility, expertise and experience— are uniquely positioned to play a much greater patient care role in the U.S. health care delivery system.
The report goes on to observe that pharmacists may be the only U.S. health care professionals who are not officially recognized as such in national health policy, or by federal law, or by federal regulation.
This lack of official recognition has gone on far too long. Your House of Delegates will take up a resolution addressing this situation Wednesday.
I confidently expect the delegates to commit NCPA to resolving this lack of recognition and putting pharmacists where they rightfully belong—fully and officially recognized members of the health care team.