Pharmacy Technicians, Advanced Techs Can Do More in the Pharmacy

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Studies have shown that the presence of advanced pharmacy technicians in a pharmacy has a positive predictive validity to increased monthly immunizations.

Pharmacy technicians are more than capable of administering immunizations, managing billing and reimbursement, ensuring regulatory compliance, and a host of other responsibilities, according to presenters in a session at the 2024 American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Annual Meeting and Exposition.

Kim McKeirnan, PharmD, BCACP, said she has seen the incredible growth of technicians’ roles in recent years, particularly with regard to immunizations. Technician-administered vaccines began in Idaho in 2017, and McKeirnan helped write the original program in 2016 to train those technicians. In just 6 months, McKeirnan said the initial cohort of technicians vaccinated more than 900 patients with no major adverse events, highlighting the safety of this approach.

Smiling pharmacist technician looking at the camera and holding medications in the pharmacy

Image credit: sofiko | stock.adobe.com

“As I think back on this, I really just feel super proud and grateful that I had the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of this because I think it’s just been phenomenal, the change that we’ve seen and the impact on pharmacy practice,” McKeirnan said.

Notably, because the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act is still in place, technicians in all states are able to administer vaccines as long as they meet certain requirements. However, when ths PREP Act ends, McKeirnan said this could change. In the past several years, legislation across the country has pushed for technician-administered vaccines, however, and now nearly 40 states have legislation allowing this practice.

“Pharmacy technicians can absolutely be safely trained to administer immunizations, and they do a great job,” McKeirnan said.

In another program, McKeirnan said she worked with a team to train 7 technicians in White River, Arizona, to administer vaccines to Native American families, many of whom included children as young as 6 months of age. This group administered vaccines to an estimated 3000 individuals in a 6-month time period, McKeirnan said, further highlighting how technicians can safely administer vaccines to all ages.

One key point McKeirnan made was the value of pharmacist support for technicians. She highlighted some research in which pharmacists were interviewed about their experiences and opinions with technician-administered vaccines. Despite some initial skepticism, she said the pharmacists overwhelmingly came to support the technicians who were giving vaccines.

However, the pharmacists said this should not be a mandatory responsibility for all technicians. Rather, it is important to identify which technicians feel comfortable and want to administer vaccines. Additionally, the pharmacists said it is crucial to ensure the technicians fit well into the workflow.

As more and more legislation enables technicians to administer vaccines, McKeirnan said there is a wealth of research in the pipeline. In particular, she said lots of research is focusing on professional identity formation for technicians.

“There’s a lot [of research] about professional identity formation that’s coming out, like technicians feeling that they’re more a part of the pharmacy team,” McKeirnan said. “They’re more of a patient caregiver in this role.”

In the second part of the presentation, Meredith Ayers, ACPhT, discussed the various roles that advanced pharmacy technicians can have in the pharmacy. These technicians are often the first line when patients come into the pharmacy with questions or challenges, and with their wealth of certifications, advanced technicians are qualified to take a leading role in the pharmacy.

Ayers highlighted just a few certifications available for advanced technicians, including billing and reimbursement, immunizations, mental health first aid, community health work, regulatory compliance, and more. Importantly, not only does the advanced technician role empower technicians, but she said it enables pharmacists to also operate at the top of their licensure.

“I’m also committed to advancing the profession of pharmacy and pharmacy technicians, and empowering pharmacists to also practice at the top of [their] license,” Ayers said. “Therefore, I strive to share insights and expertise that benefit the pharmacy community as a whole.

In one example of the value of advanced pharmacy technicians, Ayers pointed out that 60% of pediatric antibiotics are prescribed with the incorrect dose. Weight assessments in pediatric patients are crucial for correct dosing and are quality measures to evaluate safety and quality of community pharmacies. Ayer said research has shown that advanced technicians can ensure proper weights are recorded, enabling proper doses and improved safety.

Similarly, studies have shown that the presence of advanced pharmacy technicians in a pharmacy has a positive predictive validity to increased monthly immunizations. In one study Ayers discussed, technicians immunizing 50% of patients increased profitability by 65%.

“The community pharmacy of today and the future is about more than putting a pill in a bottle, and we’re capable of doing more than that,” Ayers said. “This can only be achieved through pharmacy technicians working at the top of our licenses.”

Reference

Ayers M, McKeirnan K. PharmTalk: The Power of Pharmacy Technicians. Presented at American Pharmacists Association 2024 Annual Meeting and Exposition. March 23, 2024.

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