Health care consolidation, mental health among House of Delegates policy discussions at APhA2019

On Friday, delegates gathered at Washington State Convention Center for the first session of the APhA House of Delegates during the 2019 APhA Annual Meeting & Exposition. The House of Delegates—which comprises representatives from state pharmacy associations, APhA membership academies, affiliated organizations, recognized pharmacy organizations, and ex-officio groups—develops official APhA policy affecting the pharmacy profession and patient care. 

Opening remarks

Michael D. Hogue, PharmD, FAPhA, FNAP, APhA Speaker of the House of Delegates, presided over the session. In his opening remarks—his last as speaker—Hogue emphasized the House of Delegates' crucial role in proposing actionable policy, citing policy adopted by the House in 2018 that he deemed “the most consequential of our existence”: a series of statements on well-being and resilience among pharmacists. 

“Only time will tell, but all of us in the House wrestled mightily with the realization that pharmacists are challenged with the ability to practice in environments that promote optimal patient care, safety, and provider well-being—whether it be in community, health system, or other practice settings,” he said. “Rather than being able to truly care for our patients, many of our colleagues have felt hopeless and helpless in a world where economics, politics, and metrics have impacted their ability to exercise professional care.” 

Payers have been resistant to compensating pharmacists for the nondispensing services they provide, in spite of data showing that pharmacists’ care improves patient outcomes. Still, Hogue struck a hopeful note for the future, with “pharmacists who are innovating, practices that are changing, communities that are engaging, and ever-regular stories of physicians who are advocating for pharmacists.” He also highlighted increased recognition among legislators in several states. 

“[Last year] seemed like the grimmest of circumstances [but has] resulted in big changes in our profession and some positive steps in the right direction,” Hogue said. “Lest you think the work of this House is in vain, it is not! Your emotion, your passion, your determination [have] been the spark to light a fire of awareness and action across our great profession.” 

Hogue will be installed as APhA President-elect at the end of this year’s meeting. Speaking of his time as speaker, he said, “While the work has at times been difficult, it has always been a joy. “Thank you for allowing me to serve you for 2 years.” 

Joseph “Joey” Mattingly, PharmD, MBA, will take the mantle for the 2019–21 term. 

Policies on the docket

More than 300 delegates reviewed and adopted recommendations proposed by the APhA House Rules Review Committee and the APhA Policy Review Committee. 

In accordance with House rules, seven new business items were submitted at least 30 days before Friday’s session. In addition, House leadership accepted one urgent new business item and referred it to the New Business Review Committee for its recommendations. The eight new business items pertain to gluten content and labeling in medications; unit-of-use packaging; pharmacist and pharmacy personnel well-being; pharmacist qualification standards; collaborative practice agreements; expansion of technicians’ roles; patient-centered care of people who inject drugs (PWID); and creation of safe work and learning environments for student pharmacists, pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians. The items will be reviewed by the New Business Review Committee on March 23 during an open hearing session and considered in the House of Delegates final session on Monday, March 25.  

Steve Firman, RPh, MBA, FAPhA, Chair of the 2018–19 Policy Review Committee, introduced numerous statements related to three policy topics being considered: “Consolidation within Health Care,” “Pharmacists’ Role in Mental Health and Well-Being,” and “Referral System for the Pharmacy Profession.” 

Whole number statement 3 within the topic “Consolidation within Health Care” was referred to the Policy Reference Committee and will be acted on at the House of Delegates' final session on Monday, March 25, at 1:30 pm. The others were adopted unanimously. 

An amendment to policy statement 2 under the topic “Pharmacists’ Role in Mental Health and Well-Being” was adopted, with the House debating the scope of the individuals affected by the statement.  All others were adopted without amendments. 

All whole statements within “Referral System for the Pharmacy Profession” were adopted without amendment. 

Election kick-off

The candidates for two 2019–20 Trustee-at-large positions introduced themselves at the end of the session. Two candidates will run against each other for each of the two positions. The candidates for President-Elect spoke at Saturday’s Opening General Session. Voting in the APhA election is open until noon on May 13, 2019.