Clinical pharmacist prescribing activities in the Veterans Health Administration

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PurposeA comprehensive overview of clinical pharmacist prescribing authority and collaborative drug therapy management activities within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is presented.SummaryIn VHA terminology, “scope of practice” (SOP) denotes authorization to perform as an advanced practice provider, autonomously or collaboratively managing all facets of a patient's disease or condition; VHA clinical pharmacists with an SOP have prescribing authority. National policies outline the broad requirements for conferral of an SOP to VHA clinical pharmacists and processes for SOP development and oversight, as well as the responsibilities of facility and clinical pharmacy leaders to support the role of the clinical pharmacist within the VHA healthcare system. The limits of each pharmacist's SOP are determined at the facility level, with prescribing and other patient care authorities granted according to demonstrated competence. There are approximately 7700 VHA clinical pharmacists, of whom about 3200 (41%) have an active SOP. During fiscal year 2015, VHA clinical pharmacists accounted for more than 5 million patient encounters and 1.9 million prescriptions for chronic disease–targeted medications, generating at least 20% of prescriptions for hepatitis C therapies, hypoglycemic agents, and erythropoiesis-stimulating agents and 69% of prescriptions for anticoagulants systemwide.ConclusionClinical pharmacists with an SOP constitute a rapidly expanding workforce within the VHA system, as illustrated by tremendous growth in their numbers since 2010. These individuals play a key role as advanced practice providers, helping to improve access to high-quality chronic disease and medication management for the nation's veterans.

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