While there was no "stop-the-presses" news to come out of the 40th ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting and Exhibition in Las Vegas last month, which drew a record-setting 20,000 registrants, several themes emerged that clearly resonated with attendees.
ASHP president Jill Martin, Pharm.D., addressed the opening general session by touting the increasing role pharmacists are playing in combating medication errors. Martin cited statistics linking a drop in the number of medication errors to a greater pharmacists' role in patient care. Martin also pointed to data that revealed an improvement in the quality of patient care for a variety of disease states and a decrease in overall healthcare costs whenever there is increased pharmacy involvement.
"The tide is turning," Martin said. "We are becoming more visible to patients." She noted that thanks in part to public awareness campaigns, pharmacists' voices are being heard. She observed that the recent debate regarding whether or not statins should remain prescription or over-the-counter medications was influenced heavily by pharmacists' opinions.
Martin announced the formation of a new task force to commence in January 2006 to address the changing demographics of health-system pharmacy. Chaired by Jennifer Edwards, Pharm.D., and cochaired by Roland Patry, Dr.P.H., FASHP, professor and chair, clinical practice & management, department of pharmacy practice, Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, the task force will be charged with, among other things, studying trends in the demography of practicing pharmacists. It will also recommend ways in which health-system pharmacy practice can capitalize on the evolving demography of the profession to improve its contributions to patient care. Martin added that the task force will publish a draft report that will be distributed for comments next summer.
Martin also praised pharmacists who responded to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. "We are really proud of our ASHP members who stepped up to the plate to meet the needs of victims during a devastating time." Martin noted that 140 pharmacists provided a number of clinical services, including the administration of vaccinations.
Manasse expressed disappointment, however, that the federal government's National Pharmacists Response Team was not called into action to respond to the disasters in the Gulf Coast. Manasse said he hopes to meet with Department of Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff in January to discuss ways pharmacists can contribute in times of natural disaster. "We will pursue a commitment from the federal government about identifying the National Pharmacists Response Team as a critical element of response."
In other news, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations announced that beginning this month, on-site surveys of hospitals will be conducted without prior appointment. According to Kurt Patton, executive director of the organization's hospital accreditation services, the only exceptions to the new policy of unannounced surveys for JCAHO-accredited facilities would be the Department of Defense, Bureau of Prisons facilities, and small home care programs.
JCAHO also reported that it's rethinking its position regarding USP Chapter 797 sterile compounding guidelines. JCAHO officials said that it may start deferring the enforcement of compounding regulations back to individual state boards of pharmacy. JCAHO is changing course due in part to concerns over legal enforceability of Chapter 797 and the high cost of compliance on the part of hospitals.