Marla M. Ekola, Pharm.D., BCPS, MBA, director of pharmacy, McLaren Greater Lansing, Lansing
Over the past several years, pharmacy technicians have experienced increased responsibility and an elevation in duties in the workplace. Technicians have always been the heart and soul of the health-system pharmacy. They keep operations running, preserve pharmacist’s sanity and strive to keep nurses happy. More and more pharmacy technicians are now nationally certified and all Michigan pharmacy technicians are licensed. The last time the Michigan Pharmacy Board rules were written, pharmacy technicians were referenced as pharmacy supportive personnel. Today’s pharmacy technicians provide many valuable services to our organizations. The Board of Pharmacy is in the process of rewriting rules to include expanded pharmacy technician roles. Formalization of these rules solidifies the pharmacy technician roles for pharmacy practice in Michigan. One of the prominent rule changes is expected to include product verification (previously known as tech-check-tech). The use of technology such as bar code scanning will allow technicians to perform product verification. The implication of this verification process will be significant for many of our health systems. Technicians already utilize bar code scanning in product verification. The implementation of these rules provides a venue for technicians to utilize this type of technology to pick and fill from automatic dispensing systems without a pharmacist verification. The efficiencies gained through these new rules and processes allow pharmacists more time for clinical tasks.
Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) estimates the rules will take one year to complete. The Request for Rule Making (RFR) was released on June 24, 2019. On July 31, 2019 the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules (MOAHR) concluded there was sufficient policy and legal bases for approving the RFR. LARA has held pharmacy workgroup meetings to discuss the technician draft language (May 6, 2019, June 12, 2019 and Nov. 15, 2019). These are public meetings and have been well attended by various pharmacy representation. These workgroups help to develop applicable rules. Once the rules are finalized there will be a Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) released 28 days before the public hearing. Once the public hearing happens, there is only one final, post-hearing workgroup where you can only discuss items that were brought up at the hearing. Once approved by the Director of LARA, the rules move to the Joint Committee of Administrative Rules (lawmakers of this committee are from both the House and Senate). No changes to the rules proposed by LARA are allowed during this part of the process. The proposal is either “approved or not approved” and the rules are either accepted in their entirety or sent back to LARA for revision. All approved items become part of the rules which determines our pharmacy practice. The current general rules have been in place for many years without revision despite multiple efforts to update them. There has been careful scrutiny and deliberate thought to ensure that these rules provide a structure and framework that will last for many years without the need for significant revision. It is an exciting time in Michigan as we continue to shape the future of pharmacy and expanding the roles of pharmacy technicians.
Special thanks to Paige Fults, Michigan Health & Hospital Association (MHA) and the MPA legislative team for collaboration on this topic.