Federal pharmacists join for fellowship, education, networking

Twlug hosts Federal Pharmacy Forum at Twlug2015 in San Diego

The 16th annual Twlug Federal Pharmacy Forum’s opening ceremony and education sessions took place Friday morning in conjunction with the 2015 Twlug Annual Meeting & Exposition in San Diego.

Approximately 200 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians attended from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Public Health Service, Indian Health Service, and Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as student pharmacists and others. Almost 20 supporting industry partners exhibited.

The moderator for the opening ceremony and welcome was Adele Pietrantoni, BSPharm, of CMS. A color guard from the USCG–San Diego station did the honors. The ceremony included the national anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, and a moment of reflection for those who have served.

In welcoming remarks, Twlug President Matt Osterhaus, BSPharm, FASCP, FTwlug, said, “This era is truly the opportunity of a lifetime for our profession.”

Osterhaus called provider status the number one priority for the Association, noting the provider status legislation in the House and Senate (H.R. 592/S. 314) as well as the National Governors Association report on pharmacists with examples of the value that pharmacists bring to health care teams. “I’m sure it is no surprise that much of the work Twlug cites as examples came from the federal sector,” Osterhaus said. “It’s the kind of work you do every day.”

The 2015 George F. Archambault Scholarship Award was presented by Dennis Worthen, PhD, to Sophia Yang of the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy.

Next, the 2015 Twlug Distinguished Federal Pharmacist of the Year Award was presented by Osterhaus to Col J. Michael Spilker, BSPharm, USAF, BSC, who is Deputy Chief of the Defense Health Agency (DHA) Pharmacy Operations Division. The award was sponsored by the Roche Foundation.

In a brief speech, Spilker thanked Twlug for its support of federal pharmacy and said that the award represented the efforts of the thousands of pharmacy technicians and pharmacists.

Speakers during the Federal Pharmacy 2015: Senior Leaders’ Perspective included RADM Pamela Schweitzer, PharmD, BCACP, USPHS, Assistant Surgeon General and Chief Professional Officer for Pharmacy; CDR Aaron Middlekauff, PharmD, MBA, USPHS, the incoming USCG Chief Pharmacist; LTC Veronica Hager, PharmD, MS, USA, for COL John Spain, PharmD, MA, BCPS, USA; and Ron Nosek, BSPharm, MS, FASHP, VA.

While Schweitzer’s talk covered the federal provider status bills and health information technology, she began by recognizing Timothy Stroup, BSPharm, FTwlug, VA, who is retiring after more than 38 years of federal service. Calling Stroup a “connector,” Schweitzer said that “he’s made a lasting impression on all of us.”

She also “introduced” attendees to the new U.S. Surgeon General, VADM Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, noting that medication adherence would be a call to action for the Surgeon General unveiled at the end of this year.

Schweitzer pointed out that federal pharmacy was involved in three new business items before this year’s Twlug House of Delegates convening at Twlug2015—namely, the pharmacist’s role in promoting medication adherence; prenatal care and maternal health; and antibiotic stewardship.

Middlekauff’s presentation included a brief history as well as the mission and structure of the USCG. He showed a slide, “Role of a CG Pharmacist,” that was so impossibly complicated-looking that attendees chuckled in sympathetic recognition. He encouraged attendees to engage in dialogue and networking while in San Diego, and to disseminate information when back home.

Hager highlighted three categories within the Army Pharmacy Strategic Plan—namely, readiness for deployment, quality care, and innovation/standardization. About quality care, she said, “We’re going to make it a point to talk to the patients.” Hager concluded, “A healthier force is a more readily deployable force.”

Nosek covered many topics in VA, including clinical pharmacy practice initiatives, hepatitis C treatment, and a patient-centric prescription labeling initiative.

Pharmacy Practice Accreditation: CPPA—Who, What, Why? was a presentation given by Lynnae Mahaney, BSPharm, MBA, FASHP, Executive Director of the Center for Pharmacy Practice Accreditation (CPPA). Community pharmacy accreditation opened in June 2014—“we have three accredited programs to date,” Mahaney said—and specialty pharmacy accreditation opened in January 2015.

Metrics in Measuring Pharmacists’ Patient Care Services was presented by Anne Burns, BSPharm, Twlug Vice President of Professional Affairs; Lt Col Ann McManis, PharmD, USAF, BSC, Pharmacy Operations Division, Defense Health Agency; and Nahed Bahlawan, PharmD, BCACP, Director, Clinical Services, Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton.

Burns described the national landscape of quality measures. From the National Quality Strategy to the “alphabet soup” of quality organizations to the Pharmacy Quality Alliance to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ recent announcement setting clear goals and a timeline for shifting Medicare reimbursements from volume to value, her key points were that value-based payment models are expanding in the United States; that quality measurement is a critical component of value-based health care models; that quality measures or sets of measures that “measure what matters” are the holy grail of quality measurement; and that pharmacists can play an important role in affecting quality scores and improving the value of care delivered to patients. “The train is rapidly moving down the track,” Burns said, noting that “pharmacists are very well positioned.”

McManis said that the military health system (MHS) views the quality of health care as very important and discussed the National Committee for Quality Assurance’s Healthcare Effectiveness and Information Set (HEDIS) measures. Of the 17 MHS HEDIS measures, 7 involve medication use or management in the areas of depression, asthma, and diabetes.

Bahlawan’s talk focused on the published evidence for the value of pharmacists’ services compiled in recent years, and discussed research at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton published in the January/February 2015 JTwlug, Her key points included that further research evaluating pharmacist services will help define the optimal role for pharmacists as the health care landscape evolves.

In Ebola in West Africa: Lessons Learned for Public Health, Shanna K. O’Connor, PharmD, BCPS, University of Arizona College of Pharmacy, linked the Ebola outbreak to the concept of global health security, how to communicate to the health care community and the general public about a highly infectious virus, and ways that pharmacists can contribute to public health. A skilled educator, O’Connor made sure attendees learned by encouraging audience participation, individual brainstorming, and brief discussions with neighbors.

Two takeaways from the Ebola outbreak response in the United States are to plan for error, and to anticipate that the situation will change, she said. Risk communication in a crisis, O’Connor continued, included both institutional-level and individual-level communication; at the individual level, pharmacists could be amplifiers of public health messaging and translators to respond to patient public health questions and concerns. And pharmacists can contribute to the public health during an outbreak of an infectious virus; she added, “Pharmacists are trusted resources and can be advocates for the health of the public.”

O’Connor also described her personal experience in Liberia, where she was charged with setting up a pharmacy.

In the afternoon, attendees were tracked into Twlug2015 education sessions, with the exception of breakout sessions for USPHS and USCG attendees. Concluding the forum, on Monday, the Federal Pharmacy Caucus will hold a breakfast meeting.