The RxIMPACT “U” Academy featured speakers from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the office of Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Sears Holdings Corp., SUPERVALU Inc. and VCU School of Pharmacy.
Pharmacists and politicians should not be the only professionals that promote patient care and the profession of pharmacy on Capitol Hill. Alex Adams, National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) director of pharmacy programs, stated, “Patient care is too big and too important to be left to the politicians.” NACDS hosted RxIMPACT on March 9-10, and student pharmacists were given valuable advice from pioneers who advocate for better health care, year after year.
In particular, one session called “Using Strategic Tactics to Influence Policy Outcomes” impacted me greatly for several reasons. First, it is important to be able to use strategic communication skills and lobbying tactics to influence policymakers. Up until about 2005, one of the biggest complaints from lawmakers was that pharmacists were not speaking up about our own profession. How could policymakers know the true importance of pharmacy if we do not tell them how valuable we are?
The silence ended when lawmakers began to make cuts to Medicare reimbursement, and that’s when we decided it was time to get our voices heard on the Hill.
Second, I learned that media can be used in creative ways to influence pro-pharmacy policy. Advertising in the “Roll Call,” which is the publication that most legislators on Capitol Hill read every morning, helped to pave the path for legislators to see how pharmacists can be extremely beneficial to improving patient care. Students learned how advertising can start with an everyday ad highlighting how a neighborhood pharmacy can help loved ones receive their medications at inconvenient times, and then ads were eventually introduced that acknowledged pharmacists in a consulting role.
Above all else, I learned how pharmacists and student pharmacists must be able to effectively get our message across in the most efficient manner. Legislators may not know what “medication therapy management” means, so we need to explain it while advocating for a particular bill, HR 891 or S274, that supports these services. In conclusion, this session helped me to better understand how to approach legislators before my scheduled Hill appointments the next day.
Campaigning on Capitol Hill proved to be a very rewarding experience. My teammates and I learned a lot from each other and from our team leader, Dr. Matzke. I can now say that I am very comfortable talking to legislators on the state and federal level about key issues that influence pharmacy practice.