Amid the backdrop of shifts in care settings, changing reimbursement criteria and intense cost control scrutiny, the hospital pharmacy is at a crossroads. It must adapt to expand the pharmacy’s reach and fulfill the pharmacist’s role as a pivotal provider of patient-centric healthcare. Traditional pharmacy workflows and operating models are stretched beyond their limits in this environment, taking their toll on employee satisfaction and burnout, as well as performance.
Why is the pharmacy under particular pressure from industry changes? Medications are the common patient touchpoint across all care settings—impacting so many areas of industry change—outcomes, readmissions, costs and reimbursements. And because pharmacists are essential members of the patient’s healthcare team, their availability, counseling and education services are important to delivering quality care.
The role of hospital pharmacy is rapidly changing in three significant ways:
1. The role of medication adherence in unnecessary 30-day readmissions
Reducing unnecessary 30-day readmissions improves reimbursements and patient outcomes simultaneously. One of the most effective ways a hospital or health system can prevent unnecessary readmissions is by ensuring medication adherence—and therefore better patient outcomes—after the patient leaves the hospital. The pharmacist is in a unique role to help drive medication adherence through programs like medication reconciliation, patient discharge counseling and discharge medication services. After all, the pharmacist is the one provider who can best ensure that patients understand their medications and counsel them on how to take their medications correctly after discharge.
2. Pharmacy as a catalyst for clinical change
Other hospital-wide clinical initiatives to improve outcomes and control costs also demand pharmacy support and leadership, and regulatory bodies make some of these mandatory, such as antimicrobial stewardship programs. Pharmacy is the liaison between the infectious disease committee and the pharmacy and therapeutics committee and tasked with reducing resistance and ensuring optimal medication therapy. The research, analytics and reporting required for a stewardship initiative are time-consuming, so a dedicated pharmacy staff is needed to launch and maintain a successful program.
3. Expanding pharmacy care into the community
Both in response to shifts in care settings and to the need for new sources of revenue, hospitals and health systems are turning to pharmacy leaders to develop and implement a retail or ambulatory strategy. However, successfully operating a retail pharmacy is dramatically different from a hospital pharmacy—from the types and dispensing amounts of medications, to inventory practices, financial operations, payer contracts and more. In many ways, the hospital pharmacy leader must learn a new business model and then educate staff and colleagues on operating this model.
Impacts of pharmacy demands
These expanded pharmacy services and programs are vital to a hospital’s growth and ability to thrive. However, due to the same cost-control scrutiny that drives them, the pharmacy often doesn’t have the ability to simply add staff to implement these initiatives. We find that many hospitals have had the same staffing models and ratios in place for years, sometimes decades, despite the need to now support expanded pharmacy services. If pharmacy staff is under pressure and showing signs of burnout from working overtime, being under-resourced, overseeing temporary staffing, and/or experiencing lagging service levels, these new services and programs are often not successful. Engaged and available pharmacy employees are necessary for these programs to operate efficiently.
New approaches to pharmacy staffing
Newer approaches to alternate staffing models supplement on-site pharmacy staff without adding new positions and without gaps in quality from temporary staffing, nor the drain on employee engagement from overtime coverage. Hospital pharmacy leaders should carefully evaluate their pharmacy workflows, especially if they haven’t been assessed in recent years, to learn how alternative pharmacy staffing models can be a cost-effective approach to successfully execute many of these new initiatives
To learn about how other health systems are modernizing their pharmacy operations through alternate staffing models, view this recorded webinar.