Technician Certification Very Important to Patients, Survey Says

OCTOBER 25, 2016
Ryan Marotta, Assistant Editor
As the roles and responsibilities of pharmacy technicians continue to evolve, patients are increasingly recognizing how important the presence is of nationally certified technicians on the pharmacy team.
In an effort to assess the public’s understanding of the qualifications of pharmacy technicians, the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) recently partnered with KRC Research to conduct a survey of about 1000 adults, 62% of whom visit the pharmacy at least once a month to fill prescriptions or consult a pharmacist.
The survey results indicated that patients place a high value on technician certification, with 85% of respondents deeming it “very important” for the technicians preparing prescriptions to be certified, and 88% of participants considering it very important for technicians who compound or mix custom medications to be specially trained and certified. Additionally, 66% of respondents felt it was very important to have a certification that’s nationally accredited, 83% believed that technicians should maintain an active certification, and 94% said that standardized training and certification would increase their trust in pharmacy technicians’ work.
Perhaps most notably, the results also suggested that a pharmacy’s employment (or lack thereof) of certified technicians could affect its patients’ patronage: 74% of those surveyed thought that pharmacies should only hire technicians who are certified, while 76% stated they would specifically seek out a pharmacy at which the technicians are required to be certified.
“The public expects to be safe, and demands that technicians who help prepare their medications have the right credentials,” said PTCB executive director and CEO Everett B. McAllister, MPA, RPh, in a press release. “Consumers are focused on safety, and a competent workforce is critical to the safety of our patients.”
When it came to legislative regulation, 77% of survey respondents said it was very important that states require all technicians to be trained and certified, while 76% felt it was very important for technicians to be held to the same standard across all states. However, many of the participants overestimated the extent to which the technician profession is already regulated: based on their responses, 77% incorrectly believed that technicians are required by law to be trained and certified before they can help prepare prescriptions, and 65% mistakenly thought that only licensed pharmacists are involved in dispensing drug prescriptions. As of October 2016, less than half of all states include certification in their regulations for pharmacy technicians, and 5 states have no technician regulations at all.
“Current pharmacy technician regulations continue to vary significantly from state to state. This is inconsistent with what the public expects from the profession,” PTCB strategic alliances director Miriam A. Mobley Smith, PharmD, FASHP, told Pharmacy Times. “The results of the study are a call for action to advance uniform standards for education, training, and certification of pharmacy technicians. This is what the public is asking for. They deserve nothing less.”
Encouraging technicians to advocate for these uniform regulations, Dr. Mobley Smith expressed hope that the survey results reflect a growing appreciation for pharmacy technicians among the general public, and she emphasized that standardizing the profession would ultimately serve to elevate it.
“Pharmacy technicians play integral roles in prescription processing and many other pharmacy responsibilities. The results from this 2016 public perception survey reinforce the reality that public expectations of pharmacy health care professionals are very high,” she explained. “Technicians can take away the knowledge that certification makes them more valuable and trustworthy in the eyes of the public.”