Since the onset, pharmacists have played an integral role in the fight against COVID-19. From ensuring medication adherence to conducting specimen collection for testing, pharmacists continue to serve their communities on the frontlines as America’s most accessible care provider.
However, industry champions are still fighting for pharmacists to receive due recognition as clinicians, creating dialogue and discourse at every level of state and federal government. The American Pharmacists Association (APhA), the United States’ first-established and largest association of pharmacists, represents 60,000 practicing interprofessional clinicians and is leading the charge with advancing the field of clinical pharmacy.
In a recent conversation with APhA leadership, the Journal of Clinical Pathways explores how the association is taking action.
To date, a disconnect between state and federal perspective persists when considering the scope of pharmacy practice. For example, CMS tends to recognize pharmacists as essential providers, however, the scope and legal boundaries of the pharmacy profession vary greatly from state to state.
To establish consistency and clarity, the APhA is collaborating with the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations (NASPA) to advocate for the pharmacist’s role as an essential provider at the state level.1 Working as a facilitator, the APhA consults directly with individual states to include language in their scope of practice to allow for the timely inclusion of new COVID-19 pharmacy services. Additionally, NASPA has compiled a state-by-state resource guide to keep pharmacists up to date on state regulations and allowances during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to state advocacy, the APhA is currently leading discussions at the federal level with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) about pharmacist recognition. As pharmacists continue to facilitate COVID-19 testing administration, the APhA is seeking to establish reimbursement opportunities for participating pharmacies through Medicare Part B.2 This recognition is not only a critical first step towards pharmacists being recognized as Part B providers, but it also serves as an important population health measure by paving the way for a pharmacist-driven network of accessible COVID-19 testing, and eventual vaccine, administrators.
Join the movement
As the APhA continues to advocate for the pharmacy profession, the association urges community pharmacies to take part in the call to action by connecting with local and state pharmacy associations.
“Pharmacists are key stakeholders,” said Sandra Leal PharmD, MPH, FAPhA, CDE, 2020-2021 APhA President-elect. “Not only in the current pandemic crisis, but also in ensuring that the continuation of care post-pandemic as access points for care is absolutely critical to be successful in controlling this pandemic situation.”
Interested in learning more? Listen to our latest PharmacyNow Podcast: Navigating State and Federal Regulations for COVID-19 featuring Dr. Sandra Leal.