Can You Scale For It: Considerations in Health-System Specialty Pharmacy Growth


With specialty pharmacy emerging as the fastest growing segment of the pharmacy industry, health systems have to address a key question: can you scale for it?

How would you change your pharmacy strategy if your volume doubled overnight?

At a collaborative workshop held at Therigy’s Health System Symposium today, George Blankenship, PharmD, MBA, senior vice president of pharmacy services at Therigy, discussed the importance of scalability within health-system specialty pharmacies to support business growth.

With specialty pharmacy emerging as the fastest growing segment of the pharmacy industry, health systems have to address a key question: can you scale for it?

“One of the big things within any pharmacy is your ability to scale and in no market is it more important than in specialty,” Blankenship said during the presentation.

Blankenship noted that the current state of pharmacy remains very bottom-line focused and involves a focus on data integrity, productivity, and process. However, pharmacies must consider the future state of health care to better adjust their strategy for growth. According to Blankenship, scaling health systems-related specialty pharmacies must involve value-based and service-oriented health care options with customizable solutions, single points of contact, and disease-focused teams who are patientcentric. He emphasized operational synergies that are designed to improve outcomes.

Blankenship discussed the top 5 challenges most commonly seen across clients: staffing, funding, space, technology, and workflow. In the workshop, attendees delved into a discussion surrounding many of these challenges. Limitations in these areas can make it difficult for specialty pharmacies to support the rapid expansion of their business, but a common theme underlying potential solutions includes the importance of demonstrating data-driven outcomes.

“There’s a 4-letter word that we tell everybody is the hallmark and the essential key of specialty pharmacy,” Blankenship noted. “Specialty pharmacy is unique from every other type of pharmacy because of our dependence on: D-A-T-A.”

Due to payer and pharma contracts, specialty pharmacy is the most data-driven area in the pharmacy industry. With the evolution and requirement of this data component, pharmacies must work to demonstrate outcomes, he said.

As specialty pharmacies grow and expand at a rapid pace, technology resources may be limited. A common challenge includes internal competition for IT resources and time, Blankenship explained.

“Sometimes you have to do with what’s right out of the box and then do customization and changes later,” Blankenship said. However, planning long-term strategies that involve integrating technologies and workflows can further help staff work more efficiently and enhance patient care.

When it comes to addressing many of these challenges, pharmacies must look to communicate to key stakeholders and other parts of organization the importance of investing in the specialty arena. With more and more specialty products coming down the pipeline, refining pharmacy strategy to include a mix of adaptability and long-term planning will be key to keeping pace with the growing industry, he concluded.

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