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The late, great, comedian Jerry Clower from the metropolis of Liberty, Mississippi told the story of going Coon Huntin’ (that’s raccoon hunting for those of you unindoctrinated in Southern ways).  It seems Mr. Clower was hunting one evening with a group of friends, including one John Eubanks, when they treed a coon in the top of a very tall Sweet Gum tree.  Mr. Eubanks, being a tried and true tree climber, decided to climb to the top of the tree, poke the coon with a sharp stick and cause it to jump from said tree.  After making the arduous climb and locating the coon, as Mr. Eubanks poked the coon, it turned and revealed itself to be not a coon, but a Lynx.  Now, a Lynx is a particularly ill-tempered member of the wildcat family and evidently takes exception to being poked with a sharp stick while in the top of a very tall Sweet Gum tree.  It set upon Mr. Eubanks.  The results of this set-to were apparently unpleasant for Mr. Eubanks, as he began to yell to the hunters below, “Take out your guns and shoot up here amongst us.  One of us has got to have some relief.”

As community pharmacists, we can sympathize with Mr. Eubanks.  It often feels like we are fighting wildcats in the top of a tree.  It’s all pain and frustration, and no place to go to get away.  Unlike the coon hunters, though, I don’t recommend that someone just shoot up amongst us.  At least not yet.  I see relief coming if we can hold on.

Healthcare is undergoing a painful transition.  It’s not only pharmacy.  All facets of healthcare are being mandated to change from fee for service to reward for outcomes based on making patients healthier.  Change is difficult. Change is not profitable.  That’s the bad news.  The ray of sunshine coming through the Sweet Gum branches is that pharmacy is ready for the change.  We might not realize it, we might not have it quantified, but we’re ready, we’re already doing much of the heavy lifting, we just need to put it all together, bundle it up, and show payers our worth.

Enter pharmacy networking.  What better way to impact our own futures than align ourselves with others in our profession who are positively impacting patient health and lowering healthcare spend.  As our friend Dr. Troy Trygstad says, “Pharmacy is an investment, not a cost center.”  When we take this message to payers, circumvent PBMs, and demand to get paid for the work we do on behalf of the patient we are building our own futures.

This is not some pipe dream.  It’s happening.  Pharmacy is becoming the Lynx, not to be poked by the guy with a stick.  And it feels really good.


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