4 Ways the Pharmacy Technician Profession Is Changing

Amid changes in the health care landscape, there is little doubt that technicians are taking on more prominent roles within the pharmacy team.

Amid changes in the health care landscape, there is little doubt that technicians are taking on more prominent roles within the pharmacy team.

Joe Moose, PharmD, has observed this trend firsthand at Moose Pharmacy, which he co-owns and serves as vice president. While leading a breakout session on the changing role of pharmacy techs held at the recent Pharmacy Home Project Meeting in Durham, North Carolina, Dr. Moose said he and many other pharmacists have increasingly utilized their technicians for responsibilities beyond traditional pharmacist duties.

“We try to engage our technicians so that they’re working towards those same outcomes of reducing care costs and improving quality of care,” Dr. Moose told Pharmacy Times. “Today’s technicians are not doing the same things they were doing 2 or 3 years ago. We’ve got them doing high-level things that are not just filling prescriptions fast, accurate, and cheap, but [also] designed to deliver outcomes.”

Dr. Moose mentioned the following changes that technicians are currently experiencing in their profession.

1. Pharmacy Techs Are Advancing Alongside Pharmacists

With provider status steadily becoming a reality, many pharmacists are taking on more clinical roles. As they do so, many of the tasks once carried out exclusively by pharmacists will start to fall to their technicians, Dr. Moose said.

“Technicians are going to be crucial in how pharmacy pulls off this transition towards outcome-based practices,” Dr. Moose said. “When we raise the bar of our pharmacists we also have to raise the bar of their support staff. If we’re asking our pharmacists to do high-level tasks and practice at the top of their license, we also have to expect the technicians to do the same.”

As responsibilities are reassessed, technicians may be able to relinquish some of their traditional duties to pharmacy associates without their experience and skillset, Dr. Moose suggested.

2. Pharmacy Techs Are Screening and Interviewing Patients

As part of their growing clinical role, pharmacists frequently provide medication therapy management (MTM) services and other comprehensive assessments of patients during one-on-one interviews. Dr. Moose pointed to these consultations as new areas where technicians can serve as valuable assets.

For example, techs can prepare both patients and pharmacists for scheduled assessments by screening patients beforehand. After collecting basic information such as age and known allergies, techs can ask patients about prescription changes, medication adherence, and recent hospital visits.

“Once technicians have this information, they’ll brief the pharmacist on any discrepancies they see before the pharmacist continues the interview,” Dr. Moose explained. “This makes pharmacists much more efficient and allows them to see more patients in a day’s time.”

Technicians can also serve as scribes throughout these assessments or during any other conversations with patients, Dr. Moose added.

3. Pharmacy Techs Are Checking Other Techs

Technicians have frequently taken on leadership roles within their teams, but the growing use of tech-check-tech programs is allowing many technician leaders to oversee the quality of their peers’ work in a more direct capacity.

In institutions that have implemented these programs, qualified technicians are authorized to check the work of their fellow techs in place of a pharmacist. In some cases, technician leaders are even granted a limited ability to verify prescriptions before they are dispensed to patients.

Currently, the pharmacy boards of at least 9 states have permitted the use of tech-check-tech programs.

Although a number of pharmacists remain hesitant to hand over this responsibility to their technicians, Dr. Moose suggested that including techs in quality assurance processes could potentially reduce dispensing errors. Additionally, a recent meta-analysis concluded that technicians have comparable accuracy to pharmacists in performing final checks when restocking automated medication-dispensing systems.

4. Pharmacy Techs Are Serving as Patient Advocates

Technicians have long served as a source of communication between pharmacists and patients, but Dr. Moose indicated that even this role is expanding with pharmacists increasingly turning to their techs to build and strengthen relationships with their patients.

“Technicians are instrumental in building these bonds with patients and establishing a comfort level to ensure that there is no interruption in therapy,” Dr. Moose said. “…We’re relying on these technicians to be our front line at the pharmacy.”

Of all the changes occurring within the technician profession, this may be the most readily embraced one. Colleen Jenkins, CPhT, a pharmacy technician at St. Luke's Outpatient Pharmacy in Boise, Idaho, and the 2014 Next-Generation Pharmacist Technician of the Year, previously told Pharmacy Times that her relationships with her patients have helped them better understand the role that technicians play in providing quality care.

“It’s rewarding when I have allowed my patient to feel like they come first, that I really care about their needs, and that they have someone there to advocate for them,” she said.