As every practitioner and advocate within our broader long-term care space knows, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to break through the noise when it comes to engaging with and educating policymakers about the intrinsic value the long-term care community provides. Given the health challenges America faces, including the unprecedented growth in the Medicare population over the next decade, reducing this “knowledge gap” among lawmakers about the important role our community fulfills will become more critical than ever.
Like the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), we in the national long-term care (LTC) pharmacy community find coordinating on-site visits with lawmakers and other influencers to be our most effective advocacy tool. Seeing dedicated caregivers and consultant pharmacists, showing the incredible jobs they do 24/7/365 on behalf of vulnerable seniors, is the most effective way to share our message.
But while on-site lawmaker facility visits are our first preference, this is not always feasible. That’s why our new advocacy tool, the Senior Care Pharmacy Coalition (SCPC)’s “virtual facility tour,” is indispensable in ensuring those charged with allocating federal funds and promulgating regulations understand and appreciate the unique value of LTC pharmacies within the rapidly changing post-acute care continuum.
Furthermore, unlike pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) middlemen and other deep-pocketed advocacy groups with millions to spend annually on lobbying and public relations efforts, we must rely upon clever, cost-effective, less traditional communications vehicles to make our case. SCPC’s new advocacy product falls under this mantle.
It is our job to detail both how (LTC) pharmacies operate and their unique regulatory, legal and other requirements vis-à-vis retail and other pharmacy industry groups. Explaining these differences — and why it matters to quality patient care has and will continue to be our top educational priority.
Looking forward, one of SCPC’s top legislative priorities will continue to be establishing a federal statutory definition of LTC pharmacies to replace an antiquated, unworkable patchwork of vague, inconsistent regulations governing their operations across multiple federal agencies. These regulations are confusing and often at odds with each other — presenting conflicting obligations for the LTC pharmacies and consultant pharmacists who serve them. They also present a danger to patients taking upwards of 11-13 medications daily.
A more orderly, determinative and streamlined regulatory structure governing LTC pharmacies in the form of a statutory definition is a logical effort to modernize oversight. This will benefit elderly patients’ while allowing our specialized pharmacy sector to better operate in an increasingly diverse array of settings. Our new virtual tour video series and similar creative efforts will help us accomplish this objective, among others, in the years ahead.
Fred Burke is the chairman of the Senior Care Pharmacy Coalition (SCPC) and president and CEO of Guardian Pharmacy Services in Atlanta, GA.