In today's reform environment, the roles of pharmacy and pharmacists are constantly changing, so it's no surprise that the year ahead is likely to present health-system pharmacies with new opportunities, along with elevated responsibilities and risks. Pharmacy leaders will play an even more critical role in addressing industry challenges.
In the regular conversations I've had with C-suite hospital executives and pharmacy leaders in recent months, three priority areas for health-system pharmacies are clear: We need to identify the best specialty-pharmacy strategy; increase capabilities and financial performance; and navigate the intersection between community and pharmacy.
Defining a strategy for specialty pharmacies: Specialty pharmacies that serve patients with chronic illnesses and complex medical conditions can play a pivotal role in driving patient outcomes through methods such as therapy-management services, adherence and compliance programs, and patient education and counseling. Access to exceptional specialty-pharmacy services will be a valuable resource for health systems, especially with the increasing personalization of pharmaceutical care. Specialty pharmacies focus on costly, specific medications and therapies for patients with complex and oftentimes rare diseases. They play a key role in healthcare by providing care to those whom traditional pharmacies are not equipped to treat. Many realize that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution for hospitals looking to create or expand their specialty-pharmacy practice. One health system might want to manage its own specialty pharmacy through a central hub, to ensure its patients have easy access to medications. Others may want to outsource or partner with an existing pharmacy that has the expertise and accreditation in place to best serve their patients.
Elevating financial management: Pharmacy operations can have a significant impact on how a hospital's budget is fully optimized—meaning that increased operational efficiencies and improvements in the bottom line will always be a top priority. Demonstrating the ability to make data-driven financial decisions is a necessity for today's vice presidents and directors of pharmacy. To accomplish this, health-system pharmacy leaders need access to comprehensive financial reporting that matters. Many are investing in analysis and forecasting tools to get smarter about leveraging data and population-health measures. All about medicine can help control costs by driving the decisions that maximize the impact of medications on improved patient outcomes. More and more pharmacists are being asked to address their chief financial officers, who need on-the-spot budget updates.
Leveraging community pharmacies: As reimbursement models shift to reward quality of care over quantity of care, pharmacists are more responsible than ever for driving positive patient outcomes. In 2014, we saw an increase in the integration between community and health-system pharmacies for a number of reasons. Community pharmacies are increasingly gaining the ability to offer clinical services and, in turn, becoming more accountable for results. More retail pharmacies are now offering health services through non-pharmacists such as onsite clinics staffed by nurse practitioners. Leveraging the convenience and access that community pharmacies provide, or extending a hospital network's pharmacies, can enable health systems to better support patients. This integration has the potential to reduce readmissions through improved transitional care and to expand the reach of hospital brands to some of the nation's most accessible care locations—neighborhood pharmacies and clinics.
Chuck Ball is president of health systems at AmerisourceBergen, a global healthcare solutions provider headquartered in the greater Philadelphia area.