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New services framework – what can you and your patients expect?

June 12, 2012

On July 1, a new pharmacy services framework will come into effect in Alberta. We appreciate the government’s acknowledgement of the value of patient care services provided by pharmacists.

Here is information to help you understand the new framework and explain it to your patients and colleagues.

New services framework – what can you and your patients expect?

First, let’s look at three items to help put things in context.

Information sessions are happening across the province
ACP is participating in this month’s face-to-face learning sessions that the Alberta Pharmacists’ Association (RxA) is conducting for pharmacists about the new Pharmacy Services Framework. For more information on these sessions and to register, please visit

Pharmacists have been doing this since 2007
Included within the Pharmacy Services Framework are the:

  • Comprehensive Annual Care Plan,
  • Standard Medication Management Assessment,
  • Administration of Drugs by Injection,
  • Adaption of a Prescription,
  • Patient Assessment for Prescribing in an Emergency,
  • Patient Assessment for Initiating Medication Therapy or Managing Ongoing Therapy, and
  • Patient Assessment for Prescription Renewal.

These services are not new. Pharmacists have always assessed patients before making drug therapy decisions. All pharmacists in Alberta have had the legislative authority to adapt (refill) prescriptions and prescribe in an emergency since 2007. Many have been performing medication management assessments and drafting care plans for years. Over 1600 pharmacists have the authority to administer drugs by injection.

The new services framework simply means that now, instead of the pharmacist offering this care for free or the patient paying directly, there will be government-funded reimbursement. The framework shifts the focus to the care needed by patients, rather than the dispensing of drugs.

ACP’s role in the new framework
ACP is responsible for ensuring excellent pharmacy practice that protects the health and well-being of Albertans. We make sure pharmacists and pharmacy technicians can use the full scope of their skills, knowledge and abilities to provide safe, effective, responsible care to Albertans. Therefore, our focus is on ensuring that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians meet and/or exceed the standards and adhere to the Code of Ethics as they practice in this new framework.

Note: There are no changes to the scope of practice or Standards of Practice as a result of the new services framework.

RxA and representatives from community pharmacy make up the transition team which has been working with Alberta Health to develop the framework details. Alberta Health and Alberta Blue Cross are working to distribute details on reimbursement and billing procedures.

Answers to frequently asked questions
We know that your patients and health care colleagues will have questions about the July 1 changes. Here are some key points to consider when you answer.

The simplest response in most situations is to remind people (through words and your actions) that pharmacy care always has been and will continue to be guided by four basic tenets:

  1. Put patient needs first
  2. Make informed decisions
  3. Use resources responsibly
  4. Collaborate and communicate

For more specific questions, look to the following background points to inform your responses.

Patient needs come first
Patient needs must be foremost in pharmacy practice at all times. To help each patient achieve their health goals, pharmacists must ensure the appropriateness of and provide the necessary support for the drug therapy.

Pharmacists will continue to work closely with patients and their health care teams so all team members can make informed decisions that will result in the best care for patients.

Pharmacists are qualified to offer all of these services
Pharmacists are regulated health professionals. They have five years of university education about drugs and drug therapy. It is (and always has been) their job to ensure every patient’s drug therapy is appropriate and safe.

Pharmacists’ knowledge, combined with their access to patients’ medication and health history, put them in the best position to identify potential drug problems and ensure treatment is safe, effective, and appropriate.


Pharmacists will continue to work with other health professionals
Making sure patients get the RIGHT drug, not just A drug, takes communication between the patient’s pharmacist, their doctor, and their other caregivers. This new framework in no way means that patients do not have to see their doctors.

Pharmacists will continue to work closely with patients and their health care teams, including physicians, so that team members are appropriately informed about decisions made by pharmacists. Inversely, it is important that pharmacists are informed by other health team members about decisions that affect the drug therapy patients require.

Potential conflict of interest is addressed through the standards and Code of Ethics
Any health professional who recommends a service, and who is paid for providing the service, may have a potential conflict of interest. You can see this issue in medicine, optometry, physiotherapy, dentistry, chiropractic, etc. To mitigate this potential:

  • ACP’s standards of practice address the separation of prescribing and dispensing.
  • The Code of Ethics requires that pharmacists act in the best interest of and for the well-being of the patient, not in the best interest of the pharmacist.

Questions? Ideas? 
If you have questions for ACP that have not been answered here, or ideas for materials that would help you and your patients make the most of the new framework, please send them to