Tours of your pharmacy or practice site provide one of the most effective methods of communication between you and your federal legislators. Visiting a pharmacy or practice site gives legislators a valuable opportunity to develop a good sense of the role pharmacists play in the community and on the health care team.
Site visits such as these are particularly useful for introducing legislators to a large number of constituents and voters, and most legislators and their staff want to know as many of their constituents as possible. Showing how pharmacists help patients in a real world setting also helps humanize the issues for legislators.
Below are some tips on how to schedule and conduct a visit with your Member of Congress at your local pharmacy or practice site.
Check the Congressional Calendar
- Check the annual Congressional Calendar to find out when your state’s representatives will be back in their district/state.
- The best times to schedule a visit are during a congressional recess, also known as a “district work period.”
Contact the Member of Congress's Office
- Email or call the local district office or DC for your legislator with the invitation.
- The contact information is listed on the Member of Congress’s official website.
- Ask to speak with the staff member who sets the local schedule for the Member of Congress.
- Always introduce yourself as a pharmacist and constituent (“Hi, I am Amy Smith, a pharmacist from Portland, Maine”).
- Mention where you practice (“I practice at Harry’s Pharmacy on Franklin Street in Portland”).
- See sample invitation letter below.
- Make sure you plan a visit at least 2 weeks in advance, preferably a month or more. If the Member of Congress is unavailable, ask to schedule a meeting with the District Director or the staff aide who serves as the primary liaison between the Member of Congress and the health care community.
- Plan on 30 – 60 minutes for a meeting.
- Don’t be discouraged if it takes several invitations before the legislator accepts. Legislators have many demands on the time they spend in the district or state. Your persistence will pay off.
Preparing for Your Visit
- Develop a schedule that allows enough time to tour the facility and to enjoy informal discussion. If the legislator’s schedule permits, plan for a small luncheon or reception following the tour.
- Find out who will be accompanying the legislator.
- Consider whether in advance of your visit you need to inform any “higher-ups” in your organization or the public relations department of the Member of Congress’s visit?
- Choose the right staff or colleagues to include.
- Try to include colleagues or associates who you know are politically active locally or who have a special relationship with the legislator or staff member.
- Let those invited know the exact date and time of the visit in advance.
- If possible, share the highlights of the legislator’s biography with your colleagues and associates who will be present.
- Brief all participants on the legislative issues you will discuss and assign roles.
- Localize the issue whenever possible. If there is a particular need in your community (e.g. high diabetes rates, limited public transportation, highly rural), provide specifics of how pharmacists can help.
- Ensure that any helpful resources or other materials are available for distribution to the staff at the meeting.
- Use the resources at www.PharmacistsProvideCare.com to show how many counties in your home state are medically underserved, and how pharmacists are trained and accessible providers.
- APhA Government Affairs staff can help by providing educational materials such as legislative issue briefs.
- Be prepared to answer questions such as:
- What patient population does your pharmacy serve?
- Where does most of your revenue come from?
- What services do you provide? Which are most helpful? Which are the most used? Which are most underutilized?
- What outcomes have you achieved?
- What are the challenges you face in serving your patients?
- What type of demand does your community have for your services?
- Prepare a HIPAA form for them to review and sign before a tour. This is always a nice way to show that you take patient privacy seriously and elevate in their minds the work that you do as a pharmacist.
During the Visit
- Keep the visit focused to encourage questions and open discussion.
- Focus on one or two clear messages to the Member of Congress and ask them their position.
- Brief the Member of Congress on the patient care services that you provide and the typical patients that you see.
- Make the connection between your efforts improving your patients’ health and how it should be considered in health care reform or deficit reduction plans.
- Provide examples of how pharmacists working with patients have improved health care and decreased costs to the overall system through counseling, MTM, etc.
- Demonstrate how you are one of the most accessible health care providers in your area.
- Demonstrate your work with Medicare Part D beneficiaries and how your services have protected seniors.
- Whatever you do, don't give them a PowerPoint presentation. Instead, aim for a conversation. Use the opportunity of a site visit to let a legislator see your team in action.
- Tour the pharmacy.
- Brief the Member of Congress on the statistics about the typical patient populations that you serve and their needs, what you provide them and how it relates to APhA’s position on increasing the role of the pharmacists.
- Allow the legislator to question and gather information.
- Depending on your practice environment, plan on modeling a screening or patient counseling. Show your documenting and billing procedures for this services.
- Acknowledge other staff and their role at the pharmacy.
- Introduce colleagues by name. Remember, all citizens are constituents and potential voters.
- Ensure that other staff know in advance and use formal salutations.
- Demonstrate the services you provide to patients such health screenings, medication therapy management, counseling, and immunizations.
- If appropriate, arrange to have someone take photos of the visit.
- If the legislator’s schedule will not permit an informal luncheon or reception, conclude the tour or visit with a short private discussion. It might be advantageous to arrange for the legislator to meet with selected colleagues or other community leaders. In either case, discuss the issues of greatest importance to the pharmacy profession and to your patients and community.
- Give your contact information and any materials for the legislator to take with them.
- Get contact information for the person with whom you should follow-up.
- Follow up to thank the legislator and their staff for their participation.
- Send a thank you email or letter detailing highlights of the visit.
- Include any photographs from the visit or copies of any media coverage.
- See sample thank you letter below.
- Report to APhA on your visit. This is particularly important if any follow-up is necessary.
- Keep in regular contact with your Member of Congress.
If you have questions or need assistance please contact Alicia Kerry Mica at 202-429-7507 or AMica@APhAnet.org.
Sample Talking Points
- Access to health care in the United States is a problem that is continuing to get worse. 78 percent of counties in the United States contain “medically underserved areas” in which there are too few primary care providers and residents experience limited access to health care.
- In [your state], XX of XX counties contain areas that are medically underserved. Use infographics available on your state page on www.PharmacistsProvideCare.com to illustrate this point.
- Pharmacists are one of the most accessible members of the health care team. Nearly 91% of Americans live within 5 miles of a pharmacy.
- Pharmacists have the education and training necessary to provide a number of services needed by many Medicare beneficiaries, including the management of chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular) and health and wellness services (e.g., glucose monitoring, cholesterol screening).
- Pharmacists are one of the few health care professionals without recognition as health care providers in federal law. Many other health care professionals’ services are rightfully covered by Medicare, including chiropractors, midwives and dieticians, but not pharmacists.
- The pharmacy profession is united and committed to securing patient access to health care through pharmacists’ services.
- Federal legislation would allow Medicare beneficiaries to access the services pharmacists are licensed to provide in states; it does not expand scope of practice.
- Add your own talking points to personalize the issue. If you are a practicing pharmacist or student pharmacist, talk about the impact you are having on patients. Describe how the bill would help. For example, you, as a pharmacist, could provide patient care services [provide specific examples] to more people since Medicare patients would be eligible to receive them or perhaps, you don’t provide patient care services and now would be able to provide these services because Medicare patients would be eligible to receive them.
Sample Invitation Letter
The Honorable (First Name) (Last Name)
(District Office Address)
Dear (Senator/Representative) (Last Name):
I am a constituent and a pharmacist at (pharmacy/school Name). We serve ___ number of patients in (city name/ county name). I would like to invite you to visit us the next time you are in (city/county name). During your visit I would like to show you the patient care services that I provide at my pharmacy and talk with you about how services provided by pharmacists increase the access to and quality of health care while reducing costs.
I look forward to hearing from you and hope that I can schedule a visit to my pharmacy/school in the near future. I will follow-up with your staff to identify a time that is most convenient for you. In the meantime, should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at (Phone Number) or (Email).
Sample Thank You Letter
The Honorable (First Name) (Last Name)
(District Address) (Zip)
Dear Senator/Representative (Last Name):
Thank you for taking the time to visit my pharmacy on (day), (date). As you saw, pharmacists provide a variety of important services that can improve the quality of life for many patients.
My hope is that our visit will encourage you to be vocal in advocating for patient access to pharmacist services. I appreciate your commitment to ensuring that patients can continue to have access to better quality care through pharmacists-provided patient care services and that you will support the bipartisan, bicameral Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act (H.R. 592 the in the U.S. House of Representatives and S. 109 in the U.S. Senate).
I am happy to serve as a resource to you or your staff on any issue as you work on health care or any health issues. I look forward to a continued dialogue.
Again, thank you for your time.