Overcoming Funding, Staffing Challenges Amid Rapid Growth in Health System Specialty Pharmacy

AUGUST 02, 2019
Jennifer Barrett, Associate Editor
With rapid growth, health system specialty pharmacies are more than likely to run into several operational pain points.

At Therigy’s Health System Symposium on Thursday, George Blankenship, PharmD, MBA, senior vice president of pharmacy services at Therigy, led an interactive discussion centered on 2 key challenges: funding and staffing. During the workshop, audience members consisting of pharmacy directors, managers, and data analysts shared innovative ideas to overcome some of the most common obstacles.

When it comes to funding, gaining support for the pharmacy program from medical stakeholders remains a prevalent issue. During the discussion, audience members highlighted the need to tie return on investment (ROI) from pharmacy services to the impact on the medical practices. Blankenship recommended building a strong business case with financials and ROI over a 5-year period.

In particular, an audience member recommended building your financial ROI model based on parameters so that you can quickly adjust the capture rate. “Because I know the scrutiny over capital around health systems is always under review,” he added. This way, being able to use that model multiple times for different projects leads to better efficiency.   

Similar to funding, gathering support for staffing can present itself as a formidable challenge as well. The audience raised the importance of hiring and retaining quality employees. When developing roles, Blankenship discussed aligning title and compensation to the specialty market to ensure that compensation is competitive. On top of that, pharmacies should consider creative methods to help retain and grow talent.

One attendee spoke to creating a growth path for the technicians at their pharmacy.

“One thing we’ve done to capture the technicians in our positions is to create a new job description at the lowest level that allows us the opportunity to train a non-technician to become a technician,” he explained. He also noted getting the health system to offer a more competitive pay for medication authorization technician positions, which helped draw in more applications, as well as offering to send employees to self-development classes.  

Amanda Cooper, PharmD, director of pharmacy services at Therigy, and Jill Honhera, PharmD, who is the director of pharmacy services and accreditation, emphasized the importance of implementing a training program for pharmacy staff.

Payer networks may look for differentiation in training types for staff, making it beneficial to identify more role-specific training opportunities that expand beyond the clinical component, according to Cooper. In addition, Honhera pointed to the need for staff to be trained on standards, suggesting that pharmacies consider incorporating accreditation training into their online learning centers. Cross-training, which was also brought up in the workshop, can be an effective way to alleviate job stress by allowing rotations in the pharmacy to keep staff fresh and engaged.

From a staffing perspective, it’s also important to ensure you’re aligning with service models, according to Blankenship. One audience member shared her experience with rotations for integration in the oncology space at her institution. The program allows specialty pharmacists to rotate out into the provider oncology clinic every other week.

“We’ve found it’s helped us not have that overlap as much,” she said. In turn, the strategy has helped increase engagement and free up time on the clinic side to focus on newer patients coming in.

Finally, in keeping with current trends, another audience member spoke to the paradigm shift toward data that needs to occur with senior leadership.

“Specialty pharmacy is as much about data analytics and data informatics as it is about clinical care,” he said. With health care moving toward a value-based model, pharmacies should consider the role of data and how to align staff positions as part of that paradigm shift.

Moreover, although funding and staffing will remain a hurdle for pharmacies to overcome, turning to more innovative approaches can help your pharmacy adapt and create opportunities for continued growth.
 

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