Even with today’s health-care teams, access to health care is still difficult for some of the most vulnerable people in our community. This is deeply concerning. However, there are things we can do right now to allow greater access to treatments for Minnesotans.
Physicians carry an enormous responsibility for our patients’ health and well-being. But we can’t do it alone. Nurses, advanced practitioners, technicians, pharmacists and other health care professionals all work together as a team to ensure the best possible patient care. However, there is one specialist who can play a bigger role, if we let them: pharmacists.
Nearly 93 percent of Americans live within five miles of a community pharmacy, many of which are open 12-24 hours a day, seven days a week. In many cases, people see their pharmacists more than they do their physicians. It’s because pharmacy is the No. 1 touchpoint in health care today. Some may wonder why expanding the role of pharmacists is important. It’s because it’s a simple, effective way to give Minnesotans more options for health care by the specialists in medicines.
There is legislation currently being considered at the Minnesota Capitol that will allow pharmacists to do the following:
- Prescribe smoking cessation products, opioid antagonists (overdose-reversing drugs) such as naloxone, and travel medications.
- Administer medication injections and apply patches for patients.
- Disclose the cost of patients’ medications and the availability of more affordable alternatives.
- Provide the lowest cost option for medication or treatment.
- Sync multiple prescriptions so that patients can pick up their medications to treat chronic conditions in one visit.
The intricacies and challenges of our health-care system make it tough to navigate and sometimes difficult for patients to access in a timely manner. But these simple solutions would deliver immediate results – something that every health care provider, regardless of their title, wants to see.
As a doctor, a Minnesotan, and a member of this community, I want to see fewer deaths due to opioid overdoses and complications from smoking. I want to see fewer children and families going months without access to health care. And I want to see our Legislature take these small, practical steps to make it happen. (Bill numbers are: House File 3250, HF 2962, and HF 3024; and Senate File 3015, SF 3014, and SF 2836.)
Join me in calling on your representatives today to pass this important legislation, so that pharmacists can be part of the solution to better care.
Rajiv R. Shah, M.D., is a nephrologist at InterMed Consultants in Edina. He is affiliated with Fairview Southdale, Ridges and Lakes hospitals, and is the founder and CEO of MyMeds.
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