College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Assistant Professor Erin Albert has been honored for writing the “best note” selected for publication in the Indiana Health Law Review, Volume 9.

The Indiana Health Law Review Executive Committee judged her work, titled “The Case for Pharmacists as Legal Healthcare Providers,” as the best paper out of the 24 notes submitted and nine chosen for the volume’s publication in spring 2012.

Albert wrote the note as part of her law review candidacy as a student of the Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis. COPHS adjunct professor Missy Blue, R.Ph., J.D., assisted Albert as an article mentor, along with Joseph Fink III, B.S.Pharm., J.D., of the University of Kentucky and Mike McMains, R.Ph. J.D., an aide for U.S. Sen. Dan Coats.

In her note, Albert proposed that pharmacists be recognized as legal health care providers both in Indiana under the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act and federally under the Social Security Act. 

“Pharmacists are the most readily accessible healthcare professional, and most trusted only behind nurses,” Albert said. “They’re giving immunizations in places where it might be tough to get preventative care otherwise.”

Lacking legal provider status, pharmacists and pharmacies are usually lower priority for Medicaid reimbursements, she said. “It is literally closing down a lot of independent pharmacies that do provide care patients wouldn’t receive otherwise.” 

In her paper, she argued that patients in some rural populations might not receive any preventative healthcare at all were it not for pharmacists’ care. While rural access to healthcare is dwindling due to numerous factors, Albert said, the No. 1 issue is the decreasing number of primary care physicians.

“According to many healthcare journals and leaders, by 2030, there’s going to be a massive population of elderly in the country, and a potential shortage of 150,000 primary care doctors,” she said.

“The bright side is that free public health clinics are springing up all over the country. For example, the Butler University Community Outreach Pharmacy (BUCOP) is part of a free clinic offering services in medicine, law, social work, dentistry, and pharmacy that was started last year, in part, by Butler pharmacy students,” she said.

“However, even not-for-profit pharmacies must bring income in to sustain services.”

This semester, Albert is teaching students in the Entrepreneurship in Healthcare/Life Sciences elective to write a marketing and development plan for the BUCOP pharmacy clinic

COPHS Dean Mary Andritz said Albert’s law studies have meshed with her work as director of the College’s Ribordy Center for Community Practice.

“Erin discusses pharmacy and healthcare laws and regulations in sessions she conducts for P4students on experiential rotations in community pharmacy,” Andritz said. “She will be teaching the pharmacy jurisprudence course after she earns her law degree.”

Albert expects to graduate in May 2012.

Media contact: Mary Ellen Stephenson(317) 940-6944mestephe@butler.edu

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