As job duties continue to change, having coverage protects against alleged errors or omissions.
The pharmacy profession was moving toward a patient care model when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and quickly launched pharmacists and pharmacy technicians into new roles across the entire industry.
Although pharmacists have been providing immunizations since the early 2000s, just a handful of states allowed technicians to immunize patients.
Point-of-care testing was also taking off in pharmacies when they were suddenly pushed to the front lines of testing for COVID-19.
Emergency departments were overflowing and hospitals had more patients than they could manage. This pushed all pharmacy staff members, including technicians, to take on more duties. Before the pandemic, technicians typically filled medication carts and worked in compounding laboratories. Now, more technicians are asked to take medication histories and get involved with medication reconciliation. Advanced duties for technicians may require additional training, licensure, and years of experience. Still, the additional duties and autonomy lead to more job satisfaction and movement up the career ladder. The pharmacy industry has seen technicians provide an integral role in maximizing technology that can improve drug procurement, inventory management, and dispensing programs.
Technicians are also providing guidance with adherence programs, billing systems, end-product verification, and prior authorizations. Technicians taking on these additional roles allow pharmacists to move from behind the counter to provide more counseling and direct patient care as the industry demands.
The change in duties for technicians should also cause a change in mindset as they think about professional liability insurance, coverage that can protect a technician when a patient alleges an error or omission within the scope of practice. Typically, the liability has rested on the shoulders of pharmacists, as they are the final verification in most pharmacy processes.
Because pharmacist and technician duties and responsibilities have changed dramatically over the past 2 years, we should expect to see changes in how courts and plaintiff attorneys view the entire pharmacy liability landscape.
And though technicians may think they have coverage through the organizations or pharmacies where they work, that is not always the case.
Even when workplaces provide insurance, it is essential to understand the coverage limits. Employer coverage often extends to employees acting under their duties as defined by the employer. However, employer coverage is commonly designed to protect the business or organization, not necessarily individual employees.
Furthermore, employer coverage typically does not extend to activities unrelated directly to employment with that institution, such as other employment or volunteer opportunities.
Employer coverage also may not benefit the technician when patients file complaints with a board of pharmacy, as opposed to filing legal actions in search of monetary awards.
For these reasons, it is advisable to have individual liability insurance coverage.
It is an exciting time for pharmacy and those who work in pharmacies.
With the added duties comes added risk. Professional liability insurance can provide peace of mind as pharmacy professionals continue to navigate through the pandemic and care for patients.
Kristen Jones, PharmD, is a pharmacy risk management consultant at Pharmacists Mutual Insurance Group in Wheatland, Wyoming.