The Expanding Role of Pharmacists in a Transformed Health Care System

Pharmacists have the professional expertise to address key challenges facing the health care system, including the prevalence of people who have multiple chronic conditions and the increased use of more complex medications to manage those diseases.


Executive Summary

Pharmacists practice in a variety of health care settings. Although they are most often associated with dispensing medications in retail pharmacies, their role is evolving to include providing direct care to patients as members of integrated health care provider teams.

The critical role that medication management plays in treating chronic diseases suggests that the integration of pharmacists into chronic-care delivery teams has the potential to improve health outcomes. Studies of pharmacists providing medication therapy management (MTM) services to improve therapeutic outcomes indicate that such services can improve outcomes and reduce costs. Pharmacists typically provide those services in interdisciplinary teams through collaborative practice agreements (CPAs). Such agreements with other health care providers allow a licensed provider to refer patients to a pharmacist and delegate the delivery of clinical services under supervision. Several key challenges and barriers, however, prevent the full integration of pharmacists into health care delivery teams: restrictive laws and regulations governing CPAs, lack of provider recognition in federal and state law governing compensation of pharmacists who provide direct patient-care services, and limitations on pharmacists’ ability to access health information systems.

States seeking to integrate pharmacists more fully into the health care delivery system can examine state laws and regulations governing the profession to address the challenges to pharmacists practicing to the full scope of their professional training.