APhA House of Delegates policy topics: Key concepts

Hub on Policy and Advocacy

Care transitions, audits of health care practices, and use of social media are the three policy topics before the APhA House of Delegates at the 2014 APhA Annual Meeting & Exposition on March 28–31 in Orlando. “While all three topics address contemporary issues, the committee made efforts to ensure that the statements would be pertinent as the practice of pharmacy continues to evolve,” said Collin Conway, PharmD, of Seattle, Chair of the 2013–14 Policy Committee.  

In the annual APhA policy process, the Board of Trustees assigns topics to the Policy Committee, with input from the APhA Academies Joint Policy Standing  Committee, for it to analyze and prepare a report of policy recommendations for presentation to the House at the Annual Meeting. Following are key concepts for this year’s topics, based on their respective Policy Committee analysis and background papers. The report, containing the proposed policy statements and background papers, is available at www.pharmacist.com/house-of-delegates.

Care transitions

“Patient care transitions have become critical in a health care system seeking better coordination,” Conway said. Effective care transitions can improve medication use, improve health outcomes, and decrease hospital admission or readmission rates. Barriers such as ineffective communication, a lack of detailed patient information, and unclear medication regimen information can prevent the successful transition of patients from one health care setting or provider to another, according to the background paper on care transitions. 

Although medication reconciliation is an expected component of the safe and effective care of patients, no defined system for successfully reconciling medications throughout the care continuum has been identified. Medication reconciliation should be performed at every step of the care process, including admission, changes in practitioners or levels of care, discharge, and even postdischarge, to ensure all medication discrepancies have been identified. Medication reconciliation, when performed appropriately, should include the core components of medication therapy management services.

Timely follow-up regarding self-management is essential to ensure patients and caregivers understand the plan of care and can prevent unintended medication errors and adverse drug events. 

Pharmacists are considered medication experts and often have access to patients across many steps of the care continuum, making them the ideal practitioners to coordinate care transitions and ensure appropriate knowledge of medications by all involved. Successful care transition programs include collaboration between all care providers and the patient, integration of the pharmacy team in the care plan, electronic transfer of medical information between providers, and shared partnerships with health care providers in a variety of settings.

Audits of health care practices

“Audits of health care practice have become hot in state legislatures across the country,” Conway said. These audits are increasingly common as managed care organizations (MCOs) work to identify fraud, waste, and abuse within the health care system and to improve the quality of patient care, according to the background paper on audits of health care practices. 

Pharmacy providers are burdened by the lack of consistency of auditing procedures among different MCOs. This lack of consistency translates into significant time commitments and affects pharmacists’ ability to provide patient care. Clear federal regulations are lacking in regard to auditing practices in pharmacy and health care generally. The proposed policy encompasses pharmacists’ patient care services—a new component of the audits that pharmacists have traditionally experienced.

Use of social media

“While many organizations have chosen to take a somewhat punitive and restrictive approach to the use of social media, the committee recognized the potential opportunity of such technology as long as such platforms provide the same protections as face to face or other patient care mediums provide,” Conway said.

The emergence of social media makes possible a method of communicating directly with patients and other health care providers. Social media present both an opportunity and a risk in the provision of patient care. A number of health care organizations have recently adopted social media–related policies, and it is important for the pharmacy profession to explore new opportunities and stay current with emerging technologies, according to the background paper on use of social media.

As highly trained health care professionals, pharmacists should share accurate and useful information that will benefit their patients and social media audience. Pharmacists and student pharmacists should monitor their social media presence for professionalism to avoid negatively affecting employment opportunities and relationships with patients and colleagues.