Pharmacist’s New Role Amid the COVID-19 Outbreak

The role of the pharmacist is continuously evolving. President Trump’s October 2019 Executive Order 13890, which seeks to improve access to healthcare for Medicare patients, sparked arguments from the National Community Pharmacists Association (“NCPA”) for the expansion of the pharmacist’s role. While Trump’s Order was made prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the arguments made by the NCPA are particularly relevant in today’s climate. With the COVID-19 outbreak, many types of healthcare providers are stretched thin and some of the state governments as well as our federal government are looking for other outlets to help test and treat patients.

Most recently, on March 11, 2020, Florida passed House Bill 389 which will go into effect on July 1, 2020 and will allow pharmacists to test and treat certain chronic and minor, nonchronic conditions. To perform these new functions for chronic conditions, a pharmacist must, in addition to obtaining appropriate certification to treat chronic conditions from the Board of Pharmacy (“BOP”), sign a collaborative pharmacy practice agreement with a physician licensed under chapter 458 or chapter 459 of the Florida Statutes, and complete and submit confirmation of completion of an 8-hour continuing education course approved by the BOP. The collaborative pharmacy practice agreement will allow the pharmacist to provide specified patient services to the collaborating physician’s patients. The agreement should be appropriate to the pharmacist’s training and delegate those services that are within the scope of the collaborating physician’s practice. In order to treat and test minor, nonchronic health conditions, the pharmacist must obtain a certification from the BOPThe certification must be in accordance with the rules established by the BOP and requires that the pharmacist complete a 20-hour education course. Additionally, the pharmacist and supervising physician must establish a written protocol, which the pharmacist is to use as the framework for treating minor, nonchronic conditions.

While pharmacists are not required to perform these new, expanded functions under Florida law, the new Bill serves to permit pharmacists to help alleviate some of the pressures that restrict access to care currently on healthcare providers and facilities.  

Although variations of collaborative pharmacy practice agreements have been permitted by multiple states throughout the years, Florida expanded the pharmacist’s role to include testing and treatment for minor, nonchronic conditions without requiring a collaborative pharmacy practice agreement. While not all states have expanded the pharmacist’s role in this way, with the COVID-19 outbreak, more states might follow in order to help manage the strain on healthcare providers and provide the public with greater access to care. There have been discussions, both by the Trump administration and by the private sector that the pharmacist’s role is going to expand to include more than dispensing services. This expansion into physician services by pharmacies amid the COVID-19 outbreak will set new boundaries for the pharmacist’s role well beyond the timeline of COVID-19.

How Frier Levitt Can Help

While we will continue to post updates as we track various states’ movement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, if you are interested in discussing how this Bill may expand your role as a pharmacist, contact Frier Levitt today.

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