A White House We the People petition to recognize pharmacists as health care providers surpassed 25,000 signatures today, making the threshold number of signatures to trigger an official review and response by the Obama administration.
Opened December 27, 2012, by a student pharmacist set to earn his PharmD in May 2013 from St. John’s University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, the petition needed to reach the signature threshold by January 26, 2013. It hit the magic number in 12 days, according to an interview with Steve Soman, the student pharmacist.
“It was very late at night. I didn’t have an expectation it would get this big,” Soman explained to pharmacist.com. “I put it on my Facebook account as well as sent it to a few classmates at St. John’s. It was a chain reaction. Every individual that I shared it with, they sent it to their friends, their coworkers, their bosses.”
As of the time this sentence was written, the White House petition had amassed 25,954 signatures.
Recently, the profession has increased its commitment on the issue of provider status—the top strategic priority for APhA in 2013. On January 7, APhA announced a major effort to obtain recognition of pharmacists as providers in the health care system, including the listing of pharmacists as providers in the non-physician part of the Medicare Part B section of the Social Security Act—also known as provider status.
“This quick response by the profession represents an interest in pursuing recognition for the value of pharmacists’ clinical services. The petition vehicle is one activity that pharmacists and student pharmacists can contribute to the initiative,” said Jenelle L. Sobotka, PharmD, FAPhA, APhA President. “We have a long road ahead of us and will need the engagement of all within and outside of the profession who believe in the cause. APhA is committed to working with other pharmacy organizations and stakeholders on a strong national strategy. This effort will require continued engagement by all pharmacists and student pharmacists to achieve this recognition status.”
“We fully recognize the importance of getting pharmacists 'on the list' and recognized as providers of patient care services. I believe the response to this petition shows a united profession. APhA is pursuing provider status as its top priority,” said Steven T. Simenson, BSPharm, FAPhA, FACA, FACVP, APhA President-elect and Chair of APhA’s Provider Status Task Force. “Grassroots advocacy by pharmacists and student pharmacists is critical to the success of achieving pharmacists' recognition as valued members of evolving health care teams. Recognition of pharmacists within the Social Security Act will help remove a major barrier and would allow pharmacists to provide essential patient care services that will improve patient outcomes, lower health care costs, and participate in the new innovative care models being created.”
Soman said that the seed for his petition was planted by the Change.org petition for provider status organized by Sandra Leal, PharmD, CDE, Director of Clinical Pharmacy at El Rio Health Center in Tucson, AZ, in November 2011.
Soman is Editor-in-Chief of Rho Chi Post, a monthly newsletter edited and operated by student pharmacists in the Rho Chi Honor Society at his school. The publication interviewed Leal about a year ago, and one sentence she uttered stuck with Soman: “You might not understand the need for provider status; however, as you mature in the profession, you will realize this is vital for the profession.”
Then Joseph M. Brocavich, PharmD, Senior Associate Dean, Pharmacy Program, at St. John’s University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, gave Soman the U.S. Public Health Service pharmacy report to the Surgeon General, which advocates for provider status.
“That’s when I really got interested,” Soman recalled. “I signed the Change.org petition, as well as started the same petition” on the White House We the People website.
Soman, who took his New York State Part III Licensing Exam this morning, was asked about the nature of the response that he was hoping to obtain from the Obama administration.
“The petition will be a public awareness–raising tool,” Soman said. “It’s not going to have a legislative impact. However, it will highlight the issue that pharmacists are underutilized in the health care system, as well as gain official recognition of this from the [Obama] administration.”