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Why it’s critical to elevate the pharmacist profession

By Good Neighbor Pharmacy

Stressors on the nation’s healthcare systems are only increasing, yet pharmacists, in many cases, cannot play a greater role in traditional primary care activities. For insight into how pharmacists can promote their value in the healthcare system we spoke with Gold Eneyo, PharmD, Director of Clinical Pharmacy Services at AmerisourceBergen, and Peter Kounelis, R.Ph. Vice President of AmerisourceBergen's PSAO, Elevate Provider Network.

Q: How are pharmacists qualified to perform primary care and what types of services could they provide?

Dr. Eneyo:
Pharmacists are highly qualified healthcare professionals with extensive training and knowledge to provide many aspects of patient care. They can provide preventative care through immunizations, perform health screenings, can help manage disease states, provide lifestyle counseling, and refer patients to other healthcare providers. Ultimately, pharmacists can contribute to better outcomes, especially for underserved communities.

Peter Kounelis: Today all pharmacists coming out of pharmacy school have doctorates. Why wouldn’t we want to fully utilize their expertise? 

Q: What are some of the barriers to pharmacists providing primary care services beyond vaccinations?

Dr. Eneyo: First, state regulations and restrictions are limiting pharmacist engagement in patient care services. During COVID, pharmacists were able to provide vaccines to children as young as three years of age. They were able to test and treat patients for COVID, but when the public health emergency ends, pharmacist's scope of practice will revert to state regulations. This means that millions of patients will lose access to care previously provided by pharmacies.  

The second issue is that the reimbursement model is not favorable for pharmacists since most states do not recognize them as providers. This limits the pharmacist's ability to provide comprehensive services to their community. 

Third, pharmacies don’t have visibility into patient’s labs or other health information. Communication between the pharmacist and any other healthcare provider will allow pharmacists to better coordinate care and see improvement in patient outcomes.
Lastly, we really need to continue to change the perception of pharmacists in the community from drug dispensers to more of that healthcare destination.

Kounelis: I think the common thread, and the biggest barrier, is the history of the profession and where it was – the roles it was assigned, or maybe allowed itself to be assigned, and how today we've outgrown that role. 

Q: What can pharmacies do to provide much-needed accessible primary care services?

Advocate relentlessly as if everything depended on it for clinical provider status at the federal level. It’s time for the federal government to recognize pharmacists as the healthcare providers that they are. Once the federal regulations start permitting provider status, states will follow. Once a pharmacist is an acknowledged service provider, they’re then offering clinical services that are not only permissible but reimbursable. Technology providers also need to provide connectivity so the physician and the pharmacist and the nurse practitioner, and all the other points of care, can look at a patient's labs and make consensus decisions.

Dr. Eneyo: I have to echo that advocacy is so important. We must highlight the important role of the pharmacist and their impact in communities. Empower patients to share their pharmacy care stories and the need to maintain that pharmacy-patient relationship. Pharmacists are more than drug dispensers. They are building relationships that are improving outcomes in the community daily.

For more information on Elevate Provider Network’s advocacy efforts, please visit