It was the summer of 2020, and COVID-19 had pulled back the curtain on historic inadequacies in the American health care system—too little personal protective equipment, an unreliable drug supply chain, rampant health inequities, and a lack of coordination between the government, public health officials, and health care providers and facilities.
It was amidst this chaos that the RAPID Alliance Research Consortium, based out of the National Science Foundation for Center for Health Organization Transformation (NSF CHOT) at the University of Louisville, and its industry partners investigated strategies that could have effectively leveraged the pharmacy sector during the pandemic and how these strategies could benefit population health and well-being after it ended. APhA contributed to its efforts, as did many other pharmacy stakeholders.
The consortium’s findings were released this week. From the first page to the last, the RAPID Alliance 2021 Report is packed with incisive observations about the needs health care is currently failing to meet and well-reasoned, evidence-backed recommendations for closing the loop.
Best of all, its conclusions sound a lot like the drum Team Pharmacy has been beating for decades: To fully realize pharmacists’ potential, we need payment reform, the latitude to provide enhanced patient care services, and more access to person-centered health information technology infrastructures.
The report notes that pharmacists are trained to provide services that add incredible value to the health care system: high-quality health advice and counseling, comprehensive medication management, chronic disease management, care coordination, telehealth, and immunizations and other prevention resources. The report recommends removing policy and payment barriers that inhibit pharmacy practice innovations and preclude opportunities to improve outcomes and yield savings, and the recognition of pharmacists as providers.
The report’s authors also recommend that the pharmacy sector adopt unified performance measures and increase use of population health and well-being measures such as CDC Healthy Days. These measures can help pharmacy quantify its value and develop best practices to boost scores. In addition, authors recommend the development of collaborative research infrastructures and equitable reimbursement for pharmacy-based COVID-19 tests, vaccines, cognitive services, telepharmacy, and care for vulnerable patients.
The ultimate goal of the RAPID Alliance Research Consortium’s work is nothing less than a transformation of pharmacy’s role in health care. This includes sustainable, scalable practice and payment models, person-centered pharmacy-linked health information platforms, a profession unified in the pursuit of a set of high-level goals, and sector-wide research projects.
The RAPID Alliance 2021 Report is power for the pharmacy community, and it’s important to share it widely with a range of audiences. Of course, targets should include policymakers on the federal, state, and local levels and both public and private payers who have yet to seize the potential staring them in the face. Our health care colleagues will be interested as well.
But it’s also for members of the public, many of whom have difficulty accessing care and health education from a trusted source. Large swaths of the population have no idea that pharmacists can provide convenient services that improve health and help them get the most out of their medications or even find cheaper options. Americans should know that pharmacists’ care can save or improve their lives and reach out to their representatives and other health care providers to demand it’s available to them.
Download the RAPID Alliance 2021 Report to read its comprehensive list of recommendations, many of which are aimed at specific stakeholders. This is a fantastic framework for advancing the profession that confirms what we know and supports our message that it’s well past time to let pharmacy shine.
Scott Knoer, MS, PharmD, FASHP
APhA Executive Vice President and CEO