Pharmacy Organizations Collaborate to Ensure Integration
At the end of September, nine major pharmacy associations announced they had joined forces to launch the Pharmacy e-Health Information Technology Collaborative. The impetus for such a coalition was mounting concern over the profession's technology needs being adequately addressed and integrated into the framework of the nation's health information technology (HIT) infrastructure. (See related story below.)
Anne Burns, RPh, vice president of professional affairs for the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), said, "The healthcare reform bill is a prime example of the focus nationally on improving the coordination and delivery of healthcare in the United States."
The pharmacists' role, she continued, is two-fold — to safely distribute medications and to optimize patient health through medication therapy management services. "In order to perform both of these activities in the highest quality manner possible, pharmacists need access to information, and they also need to be able to make the information from the services they provide available to physicians and other healthcare providers for their own clinical decision-making."
However, Burns continued, "Pharmacists are not included as eligible professionals within some of the current health information technology regulations ... and especially the data for medication therapy management services is not included in a standardized way in the electronic health record infrastructure." She added, "It's really the clinical services that pharmacists deliver that aren't being recognized."
Shelly Spiro, RPh, FASCP, has been retained as director of the collaborative and given the task of developing and implementing strategies to meet targeted goals and objectives encompassing the full scope of a pharmacist's practice. The key principles of the new organization are:
to identify the minimum data set and functional electronic health record (EHR) requirements for the delivery, documentation and billing of pharmacist-provided medication management services;to structure and support implementation of a Pharmacy Practitioner HIT roadmap to direct and establish benchmarks;to build cooperative relationships within pharmacy and among pharmacy and other stakeholders to communicate and advocate for the Pharmacy Practitioner minimum data set and roadmap leading to a certified EHR; andto ensure pharmacy representation on key HIT-related committees and workgroups.
Spiro said the collaborative stemmed from the strategic goal of the Joint Commission of Pharmacy Practitioners (JCPP) to come up with a plan to integrate pharmacists' services into national HIT initiatives. Although e-prescribing is an integral part of the HIT infrastructure, professional services — which are largely overlooked in current plans — are considered by the founding members of the collaborative to be equally vital to achieving desired national health outcomes.
"The professional services pharmacists provide are critical to the care ... and to the quality of care ... of our patients," she stressed. President of Spiro Consulting, Inc., an industry consulting firm specializing in long term care and post acute care pharmacy services and HIT, Spiro has worked in a number of pharmacy care settings. Drawing on both personal experience and industry knowledge, she said an extremely important component of patient safety is to ensure bidirectional communication between pharmacists and other healthcare providers.
Spiro pointed out that while e-prescribing facilitates safer distribution of medications, it falls short of capturing and disseminating key clinical data in terms of medication management, which is an important component of the stated meaningful use medication goals. She noted a key strength of pharmacists is the ability to look longitudinally at care. "Pharmacists are trained to look at the patient as a whole," she said of the historically patient-centered model.
Both Spiro and Burns noted that pharmacists often have a unique relationship with patients including a big picture view of not only prescribed medications but also over the counter drugs, supplements and even nutritional preferences ... information that could be vital to other providers from both a safety and outcomes perspective. Addressing the need for standardized bidirectional communication tops the "to do" list for the participating organizations.
"There's a lot of important information that the pharmacist can capture that is not currently being captured in a formalized way," Burns pointed out. "The collaborative will be focused on securing a certified pharmacy electronic health record that will interface with the patient's other health records," she continued. Burns added that achieving a certified standard would help to facilitate connections among providers and fill a gap in the healthcare system that is not currently being met.
To learn more about the objectives of the Pharmacy e-Health Information Technology Collaborative, go online to www.pharmacye-hit.org.
Founding Members of the Collaborative
Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP): national professional association of 5,700 member pharmacists and other healthcare practitioners who apply sound medication management principles and strategies on behalf of the more than 200 million Americans covered by a managed care pharmacy benefit. www.amcp.org.
Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE): national agency for the accreditation of professional degree programs. www.acpe-accredit.org.
American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP): national organization representing the interests of pharmacy education and educators at the 111 accredited colleges and schools of pharmacy. www.aacp.org.
American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP): A professional and scientific society providing education, advocacy and resources for clinical pharmacists in practice and research. www.accp.com.
American Pharmacists Association (APhA): National organization representing more than 62,000 practicing pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists, student pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and others aligned with the profession. www.pharmacist.com.
American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP): an international professional association with more than 8,000 members established to advance the practice of senior care pharmacy in a variety of settings. www.ascp.com.
American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP): a national society of 35,000 members who practice in hospitals and health systems including inpatient, outpatient, home-care and long-term care settings. www.ashp.org.
National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations (NASPA): national organization promoting leadership, sharing and policy exchange among pharmacy leaders nationwide and advocacy, education and support to pharmacists, patients and communities working together to improve public health. www.naspa.us.
National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA): association representing America's community pharmacists including the owners of more than 22,700 independent community pharmacies, pharmacy franchises and chains, which dispense more than 40 percent of all retail prescriptions. www.ncpanet.org.