The meteorologists didn’t know which way tropical storm Debby would go. It was sitting out there in the Gulf of Mexico and the question of whether it would go east, west or stand still and wind itself down hung out there with it. Ultimately, Debby hit Florida heavy and hard, leaving the western gulf unscathed. Such are the forces of nature. Was it any coincidence that the storm broke just two days before the Supreme Court decision on healthcare was handed down? Probably, but in the aftermath of the storm as in the aftermath of this landmark decision, the question remains. Where do we go from here?
Very few people will argue that people need access to the system. But the conversation disintegrates when we get down to the issue of control. Can we and should we expect the individual to manage their health as they manage their family finances? Their children’s diets? And if the answer – no, the expectation – is yes, then what tools can we offer to help them learn to navigate and more importantly, get themselves where they need to go?
On underutilized resource is the local pharmacist. A pharmacist is frequently the chronically ill and/or aging person’s most frequent touch point in the healthcare treatment paradigm. They often get to know patients and caregivers over time in a manner that few in the doctor’s office ever have time for. They know what’s wrong based on the prescriptions they fill and they have the background and expertise to offer support and impart knowledge – with care. Finally, there is an often unspoken level of trust between a pharmacist and his or her patient. A trust, that with the right structure can help the individual feel more empowered about his care.
One way to make this happen is to compensate pharmacists for the time they spend with patients, just as we compensate other healthcare providers. In fact, pharmacists are the only provider in the treatment paradigm that are not compensated for the time they spend helping people get – and stay – well.
While we are facing more regulation and greater structure imposed by those charged with creating the broad framework that must fit all – and paying for it – perhaps we should look more closely at compensating the well known faces that help us every time we cross their threshold so that we keep more of the responsibility of managing our health, at home.
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