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Government Affairs Report
Hey Task Force, What Ya Doin'?

by Jim Owen and Scott A. Meyers

Since we’re feelin’ groovy, it is summertime and the legislature has been quiet - except for the election commercials which are mostly for races for Governor and Attorney General - we’re going to update you on what’s growing out of the Collaborative Pharmaceutical Task Force.  Having met again in August and September, it has continued to review many of the 16 items charged to it by the General Assembly.  

August’s eighth meeting of the task force and the first one attended by pharmacy labor’s representative Tom Stiede, focused on mandated breaks and e-prescribing.  No consensus was reached at the August or September meetings on if pharmacists should receive a mandated 30-minute lunch.  Currently in Illinois, every employer is required to provide at least one 20-minute break to anyone who works at least 7½ hours consecutively, with the break occurring during the first 5-hours of the shift.  The only exceptions are for employees working under a collective bargaining agreement that does not include that requirement or for those who monitor individuals with developmental disabilities or mental illness.  The latter group is allowed to eat while monitoring their charges.  The next step the task force will take is to discuss this issue with representatives from the Illinois Department of Labor to determine how closely this break requirement is enforced and if pharmacy employees have whistleblower protection for reporting non-compliance to this law.  This statute is part of the One Day of Rest in Seven Act – 820 ILCS 140.

Discussions related to e-prescribing identified an effort that is under discussion at the federal level that would require physicians to use e-prescribing for all or some of the prescriptions for Medicare patients.  The task force is going to investigate further to determine if the new rules will apply to all medications or only to controlled substances.  It is a goal of the task force to align Illinois requirements with the federal CMS rules, if possible.  The task force identified that most e-prescribing software currently includes an e-cancellation function, but physicians are reluctant to use it because most pharmacies don’t accept those transmissions.  Many current pharmacy software packages include this capability and there is no transmission fee for sending or receiving a cancellation order.  The task force is strongly leaning toward requiring implementation of the e-cancellation process in the future, regardless of whether they require physicians to e-prescribe. 

The September meeting provided a continuation of these discussions with more to come.  In addition, the task force revisited medication error reporting with a strong recommendation to require pharmacies to establish their own quality improvement processes that may or may not include participation in a Patient Safety Organization (PSO).  Participation in a PSO or being part of a hospital quality improvement program provides protection from discovery for the “work product” of the program.  This is critical protection that the task force agrees must be provided if a mandate to establish these programs is recommended.  
The next meeting of the Task Force will be held in Chicago and Springfield on Tuesday afternoon, November 13th at 1:30 p.m.  Exact locations for the meeting will be posted on the Pharmacy section of the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation website   These meetings are open to the public and pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and student pharmacists are welcome to attend.  Attendees will be required to sign in and introduce themselves to the task force and other attendees at the beginning of the meeting. ■

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