The inaugural States Forum on Pharmacist Birth Control Services was recently held in conjunction with the American Pharmacists Association (APHA) 2019 Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington. Most states were represented at the forum with over 60 participants, and there was meaningful discussion on how to make this service not only possible, but also impactful.

This session was hosted by Birth Control Pharmacist, a project I founded to provide education and training, implementation assistance, resources, and clinical updates to pharmacists prescribing contraception, as well as engaging in advocacy, research and policy efforts to expand the role of pharmacists in family planning.

As a presenter, I kicked off the program with a review of the current landscape. Sharon Landau MPH followed by facilitating brief updates from the states, including those that have implemented pharmacist birth control services, are in progress, and are considering this action. State representatives shared successes, challenges, and lessons learned. Don Downing, BSPharm then led a focused discussion on payment for pharmacist services.

Here are 5 pearls to take away from the States Forum:

1. Even states that tend to be conservative, particularly with women’s health, should consider pursuing policy.
Legislation to allow pharmacist birth control services is a nonpartisan effort. While some of the early states had Democratic lawmakers sponsoring bills, more than half of those passed and under consideration are sponsored by Republican lawmakers.

2. Avoid certification because this is standard practice for pharmacists.
Payment for pharmacist services is critical to success. Multiple states cited this as the biggest challenge they are currently facing. Health plans may look for “certification” to credential a pharmacist as a provider or pharmacists assessing a body system to determine the service is eligible for payment. Washington has had success with payment for pharmacist services by recognizing pharmacists as medical providers and using legislation to mandate payment for pharmacist services by all government and private health plans.

3. Provide education for pharmacists and identify pharmacist and physician champions in advance of proposed legislation.
Pharmacists are not the only stakeholders who champion initiatives for pharmacist birth control services in the states; legislation has even moved forward without necessarily engaging the state pharmacist associations or other pharmacists. In some states, pharmacists have more concerns than other stakeholders and may even testify in opposition of proposed legislation. Many of these concerns may be due to knowledge gaps and can be addressed with education opportunities in advance of legislation. Identifying physician champions is important, particularly for testifying in support of any proposed legislation. Check with local teaching hospitals for family planning fellows who will likely be enthusiastic about engaging in this work.

4. We need to promote our birth control services as a profession, as well as individual pharmacists and pharmacies that offer the service. 
While pharmacists are getting trained and geared up to provide this service, the public remains largely unaware. Some pharmacies are seeing low patient demand for their birth control services. With over 1100 participating pharmacies on the birthcontrolpharmacies.com map, there is an opportunity to have a greater impact in serving communities.

5. Join us next year for the States Forum. 
Pharmacists valued sharing ideas, experiences, best practices, and strategies. Especially those in states who are considering legislation found the forum to be helpful. States that were farther along in implementing pharmacist birth control services were more than willing to share and help other states.