The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Annual Meeting and Exposition, APhA2017, held March 24-27, hosted over 6,100 pharmacists and student pharmacists in San Francisco. Attendees heard from thought-leaders about a wide range of issues and opportunities for the profession. There was an emphasis on moving federal provider status legislation forward, the role of pharmacists in the nationwide fight against opioid abuse and misuse, and the growth of pharmacists’ services in patient care. APhA2017 offered the opportunity to showcase key information and resources to help practitioners and student pharmacists strengthen their role as patient care providers.
This year’s theme, Making an Impact in Patient Care, served as a strong mandate for attendees to step up efforts in patient care and demonstrate why pharmacists should have a much larger role in any new federal health care policy.
On Friday, a jam-packed session, titled “Provider Status: It’s Happening,” focused on the opportunities that exist on state and federal levels to achieve recognition and payment for pharmacists’ patient care services. Jeffrey Rochon, PharmD, CEO of the Washington State Pharmacy Association, detailed how pharmacists in Washington got SB 5557 passed in early 2015—a bill requiring commercial or private health care plans regulated by Washington state to enroll pharmacists into their provider networks. It mandates that these plans pay pharmacists for services provided if they are within a pharmacist’s scope of practice.
APhA Senior Vice President of Pharmacy Practice and Government Affairs Stacie Maass, BSPharm, JD, also spoke about federal provider status legislation, the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act (H.R. 592/S. 109), which was reintroduced in Congress in January and now has 146 cosponsors in the House and 33 in the Senate. Maass discussed the general health care environment paving the way for pharmacist-provided care, especially the need for increased patient access to health care.
During Saturday’s Opening General Session, APhA President Jean-Venable “Kelly” R. Goode, PharmD, BCPS, FAPhA, FCCP, wasted little time in asking attendees to commit to doing more for the profession. “I challenge each of you to have the courage to seek the new,” she said. About the quest for federal provider status, Goode told attendees, “We will win this battle in 2017.”
With health care a hot topic in Congress, Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-GA), BSPharm, spoke at the annual meeting, citing the importance of pharmacists’ involvement in federal health care policy. “Sometimes we [pharmacists] underestimate what we do,” he said. “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. Finally, we’re at the table,” Carter added.
Carter, the only pharmacist in Congress, spoke about the pharmacist provider status legislation making its way through Congress. “We’ve been doing this [pharmacists’ patient care services] for years,” he said. “You need to be recognized and compensated for it.”
Opening General Session keynote speaker Elliot J. Krane, MD, acknowledged the role of pharmacists in health care and specifically in the problem with opioids. He shared his perspective about the need to be sensitive to recognizing patients with opioid addiction when they see them. Every pharmacy should have a take-back program, though that isn’t easy, he added. Krane advocated for increased access to naloxone and a national prescription drug monitoring program.
“Exposure to opioids alone does not cause addiction,” said Krane, a practicing physician and professor of anesthesiology, perioperative, and pain medicine at Stanford University Medical Center. “Factors such as genetics and psychiatric illnesses create a predisposition to addiction.”
Pharmacists face serious challenges when it comes to managing chronic pain and preventing prescription drug misuse and abuse. As a result, APhA developed a full day Pain Institute with interactive sessions and debates that covered the latest information and strategies for pharmacists to use.
During a spirited debate with Christopher Herndon, Associate Professor at Southern Illinois, about overdose being the leading cause of unintentional death in the United States, Jeffrey Fudin, BSPharm, DAAPM, FCCP, FASHP, delivered an impassioned call to action when he told attendees that “pharmacists should grab the bull by the horns and take the lead on naloxone prescribing.”
At APhA2017’s Second General Session, APhA President-elect Nancy Alvarez, PharmD, BCPS, FAPhA, echoed the sentiment of other speakers, challenging attendees to show that they care about their patients. “Treating the patient, not the number,” she said. “As our profession gains provider status recognition, success will come from active engagement of patients who know we care,” said Alvarez, who is the assistant dean of experiential education and continuing professional development at Chapman University.
Alvarez, who will be the 162nd APhA President, urged pharmacists to be bold in the pursuit of recognition. “Be a player! You can take control over that by which you can influence. We do not need to wait to be essential health care providers,” said Alvarez.
Second General Session keynote speaker Leana Wen, MD, shared a message about connecting with patients on a personal level. She said that 80% of the time, it’s the patient’s story that determines his or her medical diagnosis. “As pharmacists increasingly provide patient care services, listening to the patient is a significant part of how pharmacists and all health care providers can improve care,” said Wen, the Commissioner of Health for the City of Baltimore, and an emergency physician and patient and community advocate. “Ultimately, it’s about preserving the dignity and respect of people. No matter how difficult your day has been, the work we do is bigger than each of us.”
More than 300 delegates deliberated, reviewed and approved recommendations proposed by the APhA Policy Review Committee. They deliberated on the APhA Policy Committee’s Report which focused on:
Delegates also considered and took action on a number of new business proposals on equal employment opportunity for pharmacists; on-label indication and medication safety; drug disposal; and pharmacy technicians to name a few.
For details and outcomes on all of the deliberations, visit http://pharmacist.com/house-of-delegates.
APhA has already begun preparations for APhA2018, Leading Our Communities in Patient Care, March 16-19, in downtown Nashville, TN. For information on APhA2018, contact APhA staff or visit www.aphameeting.org