ESSB 5557 and beyond: the future of the pharmacy profession

ESSB 5557Former Senator Linda Evans Parlette represented Washington’s 12th Legislative District from 1996 to 2016 and is the fourth generation in her family born and raised in central Washington. Parlette graduated from Chelan High School as valedictorian, attended Washington State University and in 1968 graduated from the WSU pharmacy program with honors. Parlette served on three standing Senate committees: Health Care, Rules, and Ways and Means. Her experience as a pharmacist was as a good foundation for her work on health care issues.

In May 2015, Governor Jay Inslee signed the Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill (ESSB) 5557 into law. The law, sponsored by Parlette, went into full effect in January. It requires health insurance carriers to recognize pharmacists in the same way as other health care providers.

“Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5557 is a very significant piece of legislation, the first in the nation that credentials pharmacists. As a registered pharmacist, I am extremely proud that our profession will be recognized for all of its capabilities,” said Parlette.

Within the state of Washington, pharmacists can dispense medications and provide patient care, as allowed by their scope of practice. While commercial health plans recognized pharmacists for dispensing medications, they routinely refuse to include pharmacists in their participating provider networks. ESSB 5557 requires commercial health plans to treat pharmacists as patient care providers, consistent with the Every Category of Provider law and the attorney general’s opinion statement released in 2013. This effectively closes a loophole commercial health plans used to deny patients’ access to pharmacist-provided care, and opens doors that will allow pharmacists to be integral members of the health care team alongside the primary care provider.

The pharmacist of tomorrow

Drug expert, medication therapy consultant, care services innovator: the pharmacist of the future practices as part of the health care team to tackle the nation’s health care problems and collaborate on solutions to make our world a happier, healthier place.

“Pharmacists are highly trained, highly accessible health care providers that have traditionally been underutilized in the community pharmacy setting,” said Julie Akers, a clinical assistant professor at the WSU College of Pharmacy.

It is already common to get a flu shot at a local pharmacy, and some pharmacies offer strep throat testing as well. The scope of practice for pharmacists in Washington state allows for the development of protocols for minor ailments and conditions that can easily be evaluated by a community pharmacist and, if prescription medication is appropriate, treatment can be initiated immediately, said Akers. These protocols are known as collaborative drug therapy agreements.

From promoting individual health and wellness to promoting healthy communities and populations, the WSU College of Pharmacy is at the forefront of pharmacy education that is defining a new role for the pharmacist as part of the health care team. As the future of health care delivery unfolds, pharmacists are positioned to pick up the baton as health counselor as pharmacy becomes more complex with the development of pharmacogenomics, individualized pharmacology and personalized medicine.

There are many pharmacies in Washington that already function in this capacity and also provide learning environments to future pharmacists by hosting pharmacy rotation sites and precepting WSU students in their final year of pharmacy school. These learning opportunities make Cougar pharmacists prepared to practice at the top of their education to meet the expanding health care needs of patients today and tomorrow.



“The pharmacist of the future will continue to be a leader and equal partner in a diverse multi-disciplinary prevention and health care team within the medical or health care home.”
Richard Carmona, M.D., Former U.S. Surgeon General