The COVID-19 Pandemic May Change The Way Hospital Pharmacies Do Business
Pharmacy Times® interviewed Kim White, MBA, vice president of Numerof & Associates, on how changes in business strategies in hospitals due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic may affect how hospital pharmacies conduct their business.
Alana Hippensteele: So Kim, what are some of the ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the health care industry to evolve the way it does business, and what affect does this have on pharmacy?
Kim White: Thank you for that question, Alana. When the pandemic started, many hospitals and health systems shut down most of their elective procedures. Ambulatory services and general patient visits were also canceled. Manufacturers’ representative visits were banned from on-site meetings, and so most hospitals were in marginal financial shape before the pandemic, and that made them increasingly sensitive to cost increases, especially those related to the purchase of new drugs and devices.
The cancellation of elective procedures made the financial situation that much tighter, resulting in more stringent clinical and economic criteria being applied to new and even some current purchases. So, the centralization in decision making required to deal with the pandemic is naturally spilling over into decisions about what products will be used across the system, and the result is fewer decision makers each with more impact on product sales.
During this period, hospitals also faced supply shortages, which had a direct impact on pharmacies. Hospital pharmacists were forced to spend more time managing product delays. The situation required that they ask new questions about products like where it is made and develop backup plans in case shortages occurred.
Alana Hippensteele: Right, and why are pharmacists generally trained on products through conferences, and how are pharmaceutical companies adapting to this dilemma during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Kim White: Well, there's numerous ways in which pharmacists learn about products through trade journals, CE courses, or continuing education courses, and through networking and meeting with representatives at booths in education sessions at conferences.
Historically, conferences presented an opportunity to reach a lot of people at one time. However, when the pandemic hit, most conferences were either cancelled or moved to a virtual setting. Manufacturers have had to adapt their outreach and approach. Many still participated through virtual conference programs and some have even increased their spend in trade journals, while others have adapted their communications to online and other settings.
Alana Hippensteele: Right, and how might the switch to virtual detailing affect pharmacies?
Kim White: Great question. Well virtual detailing may help pharmacists plan their schedule so interactions with manufacturing representatives occur at the most opportune time without distractions. It may allow for deeper discussion and understanding of a particular product or products. To the extent manufacturers develop reps on call or reps available through virtual means, this may also provide pharmacists with the ability to quickly access information they need, when they need it.
Alana Hippensteele: What do leaders in pharmaceutical companies believe will be critical for success in a post-COVID world, and how might this affect pharmacies?
Kim White: In a post-COVID world, many manufacturers will adopt a hybrid model of detailing that includes both in-person as well as virtual visits. They'll also give a critical eye to how they target and segment the market to ensure they're calling on those individuals most likely to prescribe in a way, virtual or in-person, that works best for them. In some instances, we've already seen manufacturers reduce the size of their field forces.
When this happens, there could also be a reduction in local pharmacy visits as companies send their representatives to those accounts where they may get the most bang for the buck, if you will, and as this happens, pharmacists working in a retail setting will need to seek out information and rely on trade journals, manufacturer websites, and conferences to learn more about products.
Alana Hippensteele: Right, and will any of these changes require new skills or capabilities among pharmacists?
Kim White: Pharmacists will still need the skills and capabilities they've always had. However, they may have to be more diligent in checking information sources to ensure they have the necessary facts and data to inform their patient or formulary recommendations.
Alana Hippensteele: Right, right. Do you have any closing thoughts, Kim?
Kim White: The pandemic and the associated shutdown of elective procedures required may have changed the perspective of hospital executives and administration about the ongoing failure of fee for service as a payment model. Most hospitals get paid for each transaction with patients, so when the transactions stop, like what we saw with COVID, so does cash flow. If this experience encourages more hospitals to take on capitated payment models, in which they get predictable payments for each patient and are responsible for taking steps to keep those patients healthy and minimize health costs, we may see an increase in such programs. If that happens, hospitals may see a larger role for community pharmacists in the delivery of care at reduced cost.
Alana Hippensteele: Right. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today, Kim. Now let’s hear from some of our other MJH Life Sciences brands on their latest headlines.