How to advocate for provider status


Seize the moment as an opportunity to expand pharmacy’s scope of practice
In brief:

  • Pharmacists are trusted, engage frequently with patients, and are broadly accessible
  • The value of pharmacists has increased during COVID-19 as the scope of practice has increased
  • However, pharmacists still face significant limits on provider status
  • The future of pharmacy depends on expanding provider status
  • Pharmacists need to lead the way in making the case for provider status

Each year, American Pharmacists Month, celebrated in October, provides an opportunity to recognize and celebrate pharmacists. This recognition and celebration are certainly well deserved.

But this year, we must do even more. We must actively make the case for an expansion of pharmacists’ provider status. By lacking provider status, 300,000 of America’s most accessible health professionals are being kept on the sidelines at a time when the country needs everyone in healthcare contributing to their fullest potential. Both patients and pharmacists want changes in pharmacists’ scope of practice.

Pharmacists’ immense value

You know the value pharmacists provide because you deliver it daily. You know that pharmacists are:

  • Highly trusted. Pharmacists are ranked among the most trusted, ethical healthcare professionals.1
  • Frequently engaged. Patients engage with a pharmacist 12 times as often as their primary care provider.2
  • Easily accessible. Nearly 90% of Americans live within 5 miles of a community pharmacy.

The value that pharmacists provide has grown during the COVID-19 crisis as temporary federal orders expanded pharmacists’ scope of practice, allowing pharmacists to:

  • Administer COVID-19 tests
  • Provide CDC-recommended vaccines for children ages 3–18
  • Deliver COVID-19 vaccines when they become available3

Pharmacists have also provided value during this time by increasing delivery and pickup services and by providing assistance to patients with chronic diseases to help them stay healthy.

“Never has the value of pharmacy been so widely recognized as it is today.”

— Pete Slone, SVP, Public Affairs, McKesson [during Virtual McKesson ideaShare 2020]

Yet pharmacists still lack provider status

Despite the value pharmacists provide, and despite the temporary expansion in the scope of practice during COVID-19, pharmacists still lack status and reimbursement as healthcare providers.

The root of the issue is the 1935 Social Security Act, which does not designate pharmacists with “provider status.” This status is needed to provide patients with services covered under healthcare programs such as Medicare Part B.

Making the case for provider status

To ensure you can practice at the top of your license and are paid for that work requires continually telling your story at the community, state and national level. Explain the value you provide year-round, especially during American Pharmacists Month.

In making the case, remember to emphasize benefits such as patient access, safety, and working with other providers to assist patients in managing chronic diseases. Consider these tips:

  • Cut the jargon. Med sync, MTM and DIR don’t mean anything to patients and policymakers. Describe your value in terms they understand. Example: “We make sure all of your medications are ready to pick up or deliver just once each month.”
  • Make it personal. Data showing your pharmacy’s impact on patients, such as performance measures, is important to payers and policymakers. But in conveying the value your pharmacy provides, remember the human impact. For example, “Three months after completing our diabetes education program, here’s how a patient’s health and life are different ….”
  • Communicate through a variety of tools. Conversations with patients, social media posts, and hosting lawmakers and their staffers — virtually or at your pharmacy — can all be effective. To quickly send a letter to an elected official on issues impacting independent pharmacy, tap into the Policy Action Network on McKesson Connect Community.
  • Share this video with your community. To get movement, you need allies. But, explaining provider status to non-pharmacists can be complicated. We’ve produced a video that we hope to use to help tell the story. Check it out, share it, and use it to educate your own patients.

    How to share the video: Click the links below to share on each platform. If you want to do it manually, you can copy the video link below and paste it into the platform or email of your choice.
    Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Email | Raw video link

Pharmacists provide tremendous value and have a strong case to make. In order to expand pharmacists’ scope of practice, it is essential to repeatedly make this case, emphasizing the unique value provided in helping improve the health of the community.

1Pharmacists Top Most Trusted Professions in Gallup Poll,” Christine Blank, Drug Topics, Jan. 10, 2020.
2Community Pharmacists’ Contributions to Disease Management During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Mark A. Strand et al., Commentary, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, July 23, 2020.
3Trump Administration Takes Action to Expand Access to COVID-19 Vaccines,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Sept. 9, 2020.