Happy “Belated” Thanksgiving!
I stumbled across an interesting read from the American Pharmacists Association newsletter a few weeks ago about how certain states are rallying for their pharmacists to have prescribing power for birth control. Pharmacists in California and Oregon are pioneering these efforts; within the next few months, women will be able to come to pharmacies in these states and get birth control without a prescription from a doctor.
How will this be possible? Instead of going to the doctor, women will instead come to the pharmacy and be asked to fill out a health questionnaire in place of bringing in a doctor’s prescription. Pharmacists will then process these questionnaires and fill the patient’s birth control method of choice (which will still be covered by insurance, of course).
What do I think about this? I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I think it’s a great option – its convenient, potentially less expensive for the patient, and could save the patient time from seeing a doctor. In theory, they say that these kinds of efforts could help prevent more unintended pregnancies than ever. On the other hand, if patients are not seeing a doctor to obtain their birth control prescriptions, patients are no longer getting any preventative screenings for cancer or assessed for other life threatening side effects of contraception such as blood clots. When patients are asked to fill out the health questionnaire in the pharmacy for a new prescription, they are simply self-assessing their current health; a lot of women may not recognize when something is wrong. Women often think that something is just a common side effect, when in reality, they could be exhibiting signs of a much more serious issue.
The above pro-con list is only from the patient’s point of view. From a pharmacist’s point of view — How will pharmacists be able to incorporate this into their already hectic days? Anyone who has worked in retail pharmacy knows this is a near impossible task – how can a pharmacy with a single pharmacist be able to: take all prescription transfers, give all the flu/shingles/pneumonia shots, verify all outgoing prescriptions, counsel patients on prescriptions AND now potentially write new scripts for birth control after trying to assess a woman’s health state from only a health questionnaire?
Is it great that pharmacists’ roles are expanding every day? Absolutely. Can pharmacists adequately balance all the tasks they are expected to do in a day? Questionable. But possible, I suppose.
What do you all think? Is this a good idea? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? I’d love to hear your input!