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ACP Council approves Standards of Practice for Virtual Care

June 29, 2022
Standards include amendments derived from consultation feedback.

After receiving extensive feedback from regulated members, stakeholders, and the Minister of Health, the Council of the Alberta College of Pharmacy has approved Standards of Practice for Virtual Care (SPVC). The approved standards have been amended significantly because of the feedback received during the 60-day consultation period. The amendments provide more clarity about what is expected of regulated members when providing virtual care to their patients.

The Standards of Practice for Virtual Care replace ACP’s virtual care guidelines, which came into force in July 2021.

The standards have been developed with the understanding that the ability of regulated members to routinely engage with patients in person is fundamental to the practice of pharmacy, and that regulated members work collaboratively with patients to mutually identify the patient’s needs, goals, and preferences.

Virtual care can be a valuable tool that can optimize and complement in-person care. Where in-person care is impossible or impractical, virtual care may be able to meet the needs of patients in remote or underserviced locations, as well as patients who are otherwise unable to obtain timely in-person care.

These standards seek to balance the use of virtual care with the best interests of patients and the ability of regulated members to provide care that meets their obligation to the Standards of Practice for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians (SPPPT) and the legislative framework governing pharmacy practice. Regulated members must individually assess each unique patient and their situation and consider the patient’s goals for their health and wellbeing when they determine if appropriate, effective, and safe care can be provided virtually.

It is important to note these are standards of practice and are directed at the practice of each regulated member, regardless of their practice setting or its model of operations. 

As the standards provide a framework for the practice of regulated members using virtual care, it is important that proprietors understand these standards and the overall legislative scheme when developing their business model to ensure they do not impose any condition on a licensee or regulated member that compromises the licensee or regulated member’s professional independence, judgment, or integrity.

When do the standards take effect?

These standards take effect immediately for regulated members who work for any newly licensed pharmacy that opens between June 24, 2022, and January 15, 2023.

As of January 16, 2023, all regulated members will be expected to comply with the standards when providing virtual care to their patients. Regulated members who practise at existing pharmacies will be given this time to transition to the new standards so that the care they provide to their patients can be adapted as smoothly as possible.

How does this affect pharmacies that hold a mail order licence?

Regulated members who work in community pharmacies with mail order licences are not exempt from complying with the Standards of Practice for Virtual Care. Community pharmacies with mail order licences must review and, if necessary, adjust their polices and procedures to ensure compliance with the Standards of Practice for Virtual Care. These pharmacies must make every effort to achieve the same level of quality and service to patients receiving mail order services as those patients who receive in-person care.

As indicated in standard 4, mail order licences will be required for pharmacies where a regulated member provides restricted activities from the pharmacy that include the dispensing or selling of drugs to a patient who does not receive in-person care from the regulated member because the patient’s unique circumstances make in-person care impractical or impossible. These unique circumstances are outlined in standard 3(d)(ii) and 3(d)(iii).

We’ll have more about the Standards of Practice for Virtual Care in future editions of the Link.