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It's time for pharmacists to take the lead, says ASHP



Cynthia Brennan
Pharmacy is on the verge of graduating to a new level of the profession, and it's time for pharmacists to become full partners in the delivery of health care. This was the rallying cry of Cynthia Brennan, newly elected president of ASHP during her inaugural address at the ASHP 2006 Summer Meeting, held in late June in Orlando.

Brennan's words echoed the overall theme of the meeting, where the topics of future leadership in pharmacy and improved patient care took center stage. Brennan challenged ASHP members to step up and fill the leadership void that will carry pharmacy well into the future. She cited progress being made in public policy at the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), which has been releasing new patient safety goals and standards for pharmacist involvement in medication reconciliation, the ER, and anticoagulation services as well as in a recent Institute of Medicine report supporting the pharmacist's role on the healthcare team and management.

"Pharmacy is now in a position to be viewed as essential to the delivery of high-quality patient care," said Brennan. "Pharmacy demands that we graduate to the next level. The Joint Commission of Pharmacy Practitioners has created a vision for pharmacy practice. This vision calls for pharmacists to take responsibility for all patient care that involves medication use."

Brennan's vision of pharmacists as leaders and full healthcare providers was given a boost from several recent ASHP initiatives, including the approval of the 2006-07 Leadership Agenda, a set of guiding principles that help the society focus on the top professional priorities for the coming year. The agenda includes ASHP's top five priorities, including: improving medication-use safety in hospitals and health systems; expanding access to patient care services; fostering an adequate supply of qualified practice managers, pharmacists, and pharmacy techs; fostering evidence-based medication use; and helping hospital and health-system pharmacists deal with the affordability and accessibility of pharmaceuticals.

The ASHP Task Force on Pharmacy's Changing Demographics also released its preliminary report of potential strategies that can help ASHP meet the needs of the profession's changing work force. The preliminary report includes 13 recommendations of ways in which ASHP, pharmacy practice managers, and practicing pharmacists can capitalize on the changing pharmacy workforce to improve the profession's contributions to patient care.

Along the same lines, at a press briefing the society announced the formation of the Center for Health-System Pharmacy Leadership, a joint project of ASHP and the ASHP Foundation. The goal of the center is to identify leadership skills needed for the future of pharmacy in health systems, as well as to help health-system administrators better understand the skills needed in leading the pharmacy enterprise.

A Pharmacy Healthcare Fellow Program, a joint venture of ASHP, the Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy, and the American College of Clinical Pharmacy—with a goal to train pharmacists for health policy careers in state and federal government—was also announced at the press briefing by Brennan.

Also at the press briefing, Jill Martin, immediate past president of ASHP, announced the creation of a new membership section for informatics. As a fifth membership section, it is designed to provide a community for ASHP members who work with information systems and technology in hospitals and health systems. "Technology is an area that is constantly changing, and we want to have a home for these developers," said Martin.

In other show news, the house of delegates passed a whopping 21 new professional policies. Among them: to minimize the patient safety consequences and public health impact of inappropriate disposal of patient's home medications by working collaboratively with other interested organizations; to advocate that the Food & Drug Administration require manufacturers to identify minimum effective doses for medications; to support efforts to minimize the use of abbreviations in health care; to support direct-to-consumer advertising that is educational in nature about prescription drug therapies for certain medical conditions and that appropriately includes pharmacists as a source of information; and to recognize the right of pharmacists, as healthcare providers, and other pharmacy employees to decline to participate in therapies they consider to be morally, religiously, or ethically troubling.

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