Why Joining Your State Pharmacy Association Matters

Why Joining Your State Pharmacy Association Matters by Elements magazine | pbahealth.com

State pharmacy associations may be as varied as the states they represent, but one fact remains the same. Your state pharmacy association works for you—even if you’re not a member.

“The state pharmacy association represents the profession,” said Becky Snead, executive vice president and CEO of the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations. “The general mission of any state pharmacy association is to advance the profession as a whole and to enhance the public’s utilization of pharmacy services.”

Your state pharmacy association advocates for you before your state legislature; it invests in national interests that act for pharmacy; it supports pharmacy schools and continuing education. And, that’s just some of what it does for all pharmacists, even non-members.

So, what makes pharmacists want to join their state association? “Some love to be involved in their profession,” said Mike Larkin, executive director of the Kansas Pharmacists Association.

“They have a passion for their profession that is carried into everything they do. Some people join just because they feel that it’s a professional obligation. They don’t join committees and they don’t come to meetings, but they feel compelled to fund the association. But whether they’re active or passive members, they know that the association is working for them—and for their profession.”

As a community pharmacy owner, you have even more reasons to join your state pharmacy association. Everything state pharmacy associations do to advance pharmacy helps you individually as a pharmacist, and it also helps your business.

Legislative representation

Perhaps one of the most observable ways community pharmacists benefit from the efforts of their state pharmacy association is through the representation their association provides before the state legislature. “Knowing that your business has a voice within the state legislature and the regulatory process is critical,” Snead said.

State pharmacy associations fight against legislation that can negatively affect pharmacies and proactively look for ways to expand pharmacy practice. “We are an advocate and a resource for pharmacies with anything that impacts their ability to provide services to their patients,” said Ron Fitzwater, CEO of the Missouri Pharmacy Association, whose membership base consists of about 45 percent community pharmacists.

You can see those advocacy efforts from state pharmacy associations across the nation. Recently, the Florida Pharmacy Association helped change Florida law to allow pharmacists to provide immunization services. “For those independents who took advantage of our efforts to make that happen, they are adding revenue to their bottom line that they weren’t able to add before,” said Michael Jackson, executive vice president of the Florida Pharmacy Association, which represents a membership base of about 25 percent community pharmacists.

In Kansas, the state pharmacy association works to develop beneficial relationships with legislators. “The folks in legislative executive branches are very interested in what pharmacists are thinking before they propose or advance legislation, and we’re on their call list to make sure what they do is not harmful to our members,” said Larkin, of the Kansas Pharmacists Association.

“One of the things we’re working on right now is reviewing a bill about pharmacy technician certification,” Larkin said. “Rather than the bill passing without our review, we were able to put together a committee that is looking closely at the ramifications of mandatory technician certification and how it’s going to affect community pharmacists.”

Educational resources

Your state likely requires that you complete a certain number of hours of continuing education to keep your license current. Many state pharmacy associations provide opportunities throughout the year for their members to fulfill the CE hours they need.

“We offer electronic opportunities through our website and then we do regional meetings where we host immunization training programs and a law update for immunizations,” said Fitzwater, of the Missouri Pharmacy Association. “There are a lot of electronic CE hours available—through us and through other organizations—but a lot of times pharmacists want to be at live events where they have the opportunity to network,” he said.

Staying connected

Networking opportunities are important to many community pharmacy owners. Through the events and meetings held by state pharmacy associations, members get the chance to mingle with peers and find out what others are doing in their practices.

“A lot of times after meetings, they’ll sit off in a corner and talk about issues that they might be facing,” Fitzwater said. “It’s that collective mentality, to know that others are addressing the same issues you are, that’s so helpful. Our members are pretty good about sharing information because their service areas don’t always overlap, so they’re willing to assist their friends and colleagues.”

It’s not just about business either. “In many cases they have an opportunity to meet with old friends and former classmates from pharmacy school,” said Larkin of the Kansas Pharmacists Association (KPhA). “That’s one of the things that our members say they enjoy most about KPhA. They get an opportunity to go back and renew acquaintances they made years ago. And, there’s just a host of opportunities to do that.”

The Florida Pharmacy Association offers their members an online network so they can collaborate and chat with other members whenever they want. “Our long term care pharmacists can form a group. Our independent pharmacists can form a group. And they can message each other to get answers to questions they might run into,” Jackson said. “It allows for greater connectivity among our members who share common interests.”

Information you need

As a community pharmacy owner, you know that it’s tough to stay on top of all of the regulations, requirements and laws you have to keep up with. But you know if you don’t, it can cost you money. That’s where state pharmacy associations can help. “The state association is the best way for independent pharmacists to find out what’s going on in their state,” Larkin said.

Many state pharmacy associations regularly provide members with information on hot topics and important issues in pharmacy. “So, if an inspector walks into their pharmacy and says, ‘Let me see your policies and procedures on fraud and abuse,’ our members don’t have to say, ‘What are you talking about?’ They already know about it,” Jackson said. “We can’t monitor everything that’s out there, but we can get our hands on the majority of things they need to be aware of.”

Right now the Kansas Pharmacists Association is putting together a law book for its members that organizes all of the state pharmacy laws into one convenient tabbed book. This is just one example of how state pharmacy associations keep their members up to date on information they might not know about otherwise.

State pharmacy associations are also willing to help their members with questions as needed. “I’m often on the phone talking to members about interpretations of various laws and rules that affect their practice and their business. We help close some of that gap for them,” Jackson said.

Helping your business

Your state association offers support with anything that affects your ability to provide services to your patients. It works as an advocate and a resource for you and for your business—if you choose to use and support it.

“In order for the business of pharmacy to be successful, the profession of pharmacy has to have a role within health care,” said Snead, of the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations. “If independent pharmacies aren’t involved in shaping the role of the profession, they’re not going to have a viable business model for the future.”

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Elements is written and produced by PBA Health, a buy-side solutions company.

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