IN FEBRUARY 2017, INNOVATIONS, the official publication of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), stated in the article, “Evolving Pharmacy Technician Roles,” that “50% of pharmacy technicians would be engaged in clinical tasks for patient care within 5 years.” This year is the fifth year from the projection in the article. This year is the second year in a pandemic, for which we have seen professional roles expand through the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act as it addressed the healthcare needs of COVID-19. How can technicians help pharmacies get to a future destination?
While every state will determine the practice that technicians could continue postpandemic, let’s take a quick look at the professional sources that support technicians, particularly with the use of technology.
CLINICAL ROLE FOR A PHARMACY TECHNICIAN?
There are two professional sources I will reference to support the information that encourages pharmacists to trust technicians, then assign patient care responsibilities to them. These same sources provide technicians the understanding, and potentially the pathway, to know they can be a more active partner in patient care. The first source is the Joint Commission of Pharmacy Practitioners (JCPP).
The original version of the Pharmacists‘ Patient Care Process (PPCP) was released by the JCPP in May 2014. That version only outlined the role of the pharmacist within five designated steps. An updated version was released in 2021 and describes specific task assignments for technicians. These tasks have a direct relationship to clinical services. Given this new description, pharmacists can now know where to assign technicians the responsibility for clinical tasks. One of the successes that came from the 2014 release of the PPCP is the movement in the attitude of pharmacists to be clinically oriented with patients. I believe that the new version will help technicians grow in their clinical attitude as well.
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“Evolving Pharmacy Technician Roles,” NABP Innovations, April 2017
The second source is the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). ACPE is the premiere source for all pharmacy education. The agency gives equal educational support for the pharmacist and the technician. ACPE is the same organization that oversees accredited continuing pharmacy education.
In 2014, ACPE partnered with the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) to establish the Pharmacy Technician Accreditation Commission (PTAC). ASHP has been the leader in setting standards for technician education. This body oversees accreditation of education programs from a certificate to a diploma to an associate degree. The programs primarily offer entry-level skill training. Together, this partnership articulated technician competencies from entry-level performance to advanced skills. ACPE-accredited continuing pharmacy education helps move technicians into advanced skills.
ACPE articulates competencies for both pharmacists and technicians. Those competencies specifically list “use of technology.”There are a total of 10 areas for technician competency. Each competency has specific tasks, and they are identified by entry-level or advanced skill. Of the 10 areas, seven have an active description for use of technology.
Why is knowing these competencies important for a reader of a pharmacy technology publication?
Because the big picture for pharmacy practice is collaboration.
Collaboration isn’t just for prescribers and the pharmacist. The pharmacy team needs to collaborate in the best interest of the patient. How many times have you, the pharmacist, thought, I will need to cover that task because it requires conversation with the patient? Technicians can have conversations with patients to collect information, but never to offer therapeutic counsel or discuss a professional assessment of a disease state.
We often hear the term “idle chitchat.” I like to guide technicians to use “chitchat with purpose.” A conversation with a patient can be lighthearted and social, but if the technician knows and uses motivational interviewing the technician can “hear” patient information that is pertinent to adherence. The points of this “chitchat with purpose” can then be recorded in the pharmacy software. Future messages can then be scheduled, such as a reminder for adherence. When technicians have the clinical attitude, they will know which message is pertinent for follow-up.
Technology contributes to patient safety. It provides an efficient workflow. It assures accuracy for medication dispensing alongside clinical services, and it facilitates submission of claims for revenue — all areas in which technicians participate. CT
Christine Cline-Dahlman, C.Ph.T., is a pharmacy technician who has served in advanced roles within independent, chain, and health-system pharmacies. She can be reached at CClineDahlman@gmail.com