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Despite ‘crush’ on system, pharmacy fills strong role

Despite ‘crush’ on system, pharmacy fills strong role

Theresa FlahertySEBASTIAN, Fla. – From shrinking reimbursement to workforce challenges, pharmacies today face a lot of challenges, says Theresa Tolle, winner of the 2023 NCPA Willard B. Simmons Independent Pharmacist of the Year award from The National Community Pharmacists Association and Upsher-Smith Laboratories. 

“There’s just been a lot of pressure within the profession,” said Tolle, BSPharm, FAPhA, owner of Bay Street Pharmacy in Sebastian, Fla. “We’re all more pressured to do the same amount of service with less staff.” 

Tolle spoke with HME News recently about the importance of diversification and the role pharmacists plan in value-based care. 

HME News: What key challenges are pharmacists facing these days? 

Theresa Tolle: There's been a lot of pressure, particularly in chain pharmacies, with regard to reimbursement and workforce issues. A lot of it is reimbursement – when the insurance company is really not paying fairly for prescription medications, it just puts a crush on the whole system. One of the things I like about owning my own business is to be able to make my own decisions about how we staff and on how do we diversify. We’re able to treat people better and, hopefully, we don’t have the burnout, but the challenges are still the same. 

HME: Do you feel it’s necessary for a community pharmacy to offer a breadth of services? 

Tolle: I think in any type of business today, but particularly in pharmacy, diversification is so key. The things that used to be our primary business are not necessarily our profit makers anymore, so we definitely have to be looking to expand services that are more profitable and then also find things that are serving the needs of the community. That’s one of the main reasons we started doing so much with immunizations and then diabetes education. Fortunately, I don't feel like we compete too much with the chain pharmacies because we just try to do a really good job taking care of our people. 

HME: Despite all the challenges of running a pharmacy, why is it important to take time out to advocate on behalf of the industry? 

Tolle: I always enjoy just being able to give back and (I feel it’s important) to speak up about issues. I feel this responsibility to do it. It's really one of the messages I try to convey when I speak to student organizations or other groups of pharmacists is that we do have a responsibility to speak up. I mean, we're really not just advocating for our own profession, we're really advocating for our patients because that's who we serve. 

HME: The pharmacy industry has been pushing to play a bigger role in the health care continuum. How do you see that role evolving? 

Tolle: I do anticipate that pharmacists are going to have a bigger role, because medications cost even more when they aren’t used properly. I hope we see that start to change as value-based care takes hold, because we can help improve outcomes and, hopefully, decrease overall costs by making sure medications are used appropriately.


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