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Can pharmacists write referrals for massage therapy?

January 6, 2021
Regulated members must first evaluate their own competencies and consider if the referral should come from another health professional.

On December 22, 2020, the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Alberta issued an exemption to CMOH Order 42-2020 which allows Alberta’s massage therapy services providers to continue to provide services when certain conditions are met.

CMOH Order 42-2020 sets out several public health measures across the province to limit the risk of transmission of COVID-19.  Among these measures are restrictions requiring businesses to close or limit their in-person access.  Until an exemption was issued, this Order limited Albertans from accessing massage therapy services.

The exemption now enables Albertans to receive massage therapy services if they have received a written prescription from a medical doctor, or a written referral from a regulated health professional. The two regulated health professionals identified—but not limited by—the exemption are physiotherapists and chiropractors. As a result, Albertans have been approaching ACP regulated members to request a referral for massage therapy services.

Regulated members who are considering making a referral must evaluate their own competencies and consider whether this request might be better channeled through the patient’s chiropractor, physiotherapist, or physician. As this is a public health measure designed to minimize the spread of COVID-19, regulated members considering a patient’s request for referral to access massage therapy services should consider the relative risk of massage therapy services against the need to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Regulated members who choose to issue a referral must only do so once they have established a professional relationship with the patient, assessed the patient, and determined that a referral is in the best interest of the patient. Regulated members are reminded that they are required to avoid any conflicts of interest and declare any personal or professional interests with any massage therapist to any patient who may be affected. Regulated members must also abide by the requirements set out in Principle 1, Guidelines 9, 12, 13, and 15 of the ACP Code of Ethics.