California Health Report: A Quiet Revolution in Primary Care

Pharmacist Karl Hess, right, gives Mildred Keagy of La Verne an inoculation required for Keagy’s planned trip to South Africa. Hess is helping to write protocol recommendations for a new state law that expands pharmacists’ scope of practice. The law is intended to ease an expected physician shortage as demand for health-care services surges under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Photo: Chris Richard

Pharmacist Karl Hess, right, gives Mildred Keagy of La Verne an inoculation required for Keagy’s planned trip to South Africa. Hess is helping to write protocol recommendations for a new state law that expands pharmacists’ scope of practice. The law is intended to ease an expected physician shortage as demand for healthcare services surges under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Photo: Chris Richard

By Chris Richard

Amidst the furor over last year’s failed attempt to ease a shortage of primary-care physicians by letting nurse practitioners operate without direct doctor supervision, a more modest piece of California legislation is quietly taking effect.

Senate Bill 493 became law on Jan 1. Pending the approval of California State Board of Pharmacy protocols later this year, it authorizes pharmacists to provide such medical services as furnishing routine vaccinations, hormonal contraception and nicotine replacement medications, as well as certain prescription drugs for travelers.

The law also establishes a new Advanced Practice Pharmacist credential. In collaboration with a patient’s primary care provider, pharmacists with certification for advanced training and experience will be allowed to assess and refer patients; to start, stop and modify drug therapies; to order and interpret drug therapy-related tests; and “participate in the evaluation and management of diseases and health conditions.”

Finally, SB 493 declares pharmacists to be “health care providers,” with legal authority to render health care services. Prior to the implementation of that language, pharmacists’ legal status concerned the delivery of medication. Being identified as a provider makes them part of a health-care team and able to collaborate with the primary provider in managing a patient’s health.

Continue reading here: http://www.healthycal.org/archives/14604

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