Raising the Bar Through Education and Quality Initiatives

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Specialty Pharmacy Times, March/April 2013, Volume 4, Issue 2

From its creation, Diplomat University at Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy has been structured around its primary objective to provide a high-level of ongoing education to enable staff and partners to take the best possible care of patients.

From its creation, Diplomat University at Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy has been structured around its primary objective to provide a high-level of ongoing education to enable staff and partners to take the best possible care of patients.

Specialty pharmacy is expected to grow at double digit rates annually over the next few years, fueled by a rich drug pipeline, expanded indications of existing medications, and the introduction of biosimilars. Given the growth and innovation anticipated in the upcoming years, specialty pharmacies will continue to expand their services and capabilities to provide specialty medications in ways that promote safety, convenience, and quality care for patients who need the medications and to physicians who dispense them.

Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy provides patient-centric, clinically driven programs and services that promote patient safety, clinical outcomes, and economic value. The establishment of Diplomat University in October 2010 set the stage to expand the educational capabilities to address both industry and company growth. In 2012, the organization’s quality assurance program was incorporated into Diplomat University to expand the program from an operations perspective to a corporatewide initiative. From its inception, Diplomat University has been structured around its primary objective—to provide a high level of ongoing education in order to enable staff and partners to take the best possible care of patients. Directed by a previous college of pharmacy associate professor, this department provides Diplomat employees with a true academic-like learning environment. Contributing to the Diplomat University team is a group of individuals who educate employees on clinical, leadership, adjudication/ patient care systems, and quality improvement topics. Training programs are assigned to staff based on their role, department, and/or disease state specialty area. In addition, Diplomat University offers educational support during new product and program launches, which may include training staff on new or updated processes or newly approved specialty pharmaceuticals.

The educational opportunities at Diplomat begin immediately after employment. Internal education commences with a 2-week comprehensive New Employee Orientation Program. It is within this time frame that a new hire will learn about the company’s history and growth, customer service practices, prescription processing techniques, and important clinical aspects (eg, specialty disease states, pharmaceuticals, and assessment surveys). After successfully completing this mandatory introductory training, a new hire will transition into additional job-specific training within the department.

During times of rapid company growth, the need for front-line management intensifies. As such, there may be opportunities for employees to step into these roles who have minimal management experience and training. Identifying this as an educational opportunity, Diplomat University created an ongoing leadership training program to provide a learning foundation for leadership growth.

In addition to live training sessions, Diplomat University offers clinical staff the opportunity to acquire continuing education (CE) credits by successfully completing self-paced modules. Through collaboration with Ferris State University College of Pharmacy, Diplomat University is able to offer CE free to employees. Understanding that clinicians (nurses and pharmacists) and technicians require different levels of detail, separate modules are created for each group and tailored to meet the needs of their specific role. These self-paced modules focus on a specialty disease state (eg, hepatitis C virus or rheumatoid arthritis) and may include sections ranging from etiology and pathophysiology to treatment regimens and adverse effect mitigation strategies.

In addition to the internal education, Diplomat University also serves as a training ground for selected Diplomat partners. As more companies are becoming involved in specialty pharmacy through Diplomat’s innovative Retail and Hospital-Specialty Network programs, the need for specialty pharmacy education in these settings has escalated. Diplomat University has provided individualized and diverse education and training programs for its pharmacy partners, ranging from Specialty Pharmacy 101 to comprehensive multi-day specialty pharmacy clinical training programs.

Given the expansive amount of information that today’s pharmacy students need to acquire in order to become competent practitioners, specialty pharmacy is an area often overlooked within the curriculum. To help expose students to this fastgrowing segment of pharmacy, Diplomat works with various colleges to provide advanced pharmacy practice experiences to fourth-year pharmacy students. Diplomat also offers a unique post-graduate year 1 pharmacy residency program with a focus in specialty pharmacy. By providing hands-on training to pharmacy students and residents, Diplomat is able to actively support the development of the next generation of specialty pharmacists. Within a growing industry like specialty pharmacy, the need for a companywide quality management (QM) program becomes increasingly important. Diplomat’s QM program is patient-centric.

The goals and objectives of the QM program are to promote and build quality into Diplomat’s organizational activities, identify and investigate opportunities for improvement in a timely manner with implementation of actions and follow-up, encourage patient safety, and maintain compliance with local, state, and federal regulatory and accreditation standards.

These objectives are accomplished by employing leadership and staff to support the operations of the QM Program (Table). The QM program is led by the vice president of clinical services, who has authority and responsibility for the overall operational structure of the QM program and serves on the QM committee. The organization supports the program through the establishment of a variety of resources including the:

  • Quality Department (includes a full-time quality assurance manager and technicians)
  • QM Committee
  • QM Subcommittee
  • Clinical Oversight Committee
  • Frontline Focus Group

The activities performed by the quality team and within all departments are chronicled annually in the Quality Management Program Description and Quality Program Evaluation. Both annual reports demonstrate that the success of the QM program is sustained by proper organization, skillful planning, and continued organization support. The Quality Management Program Description provides a brief description of the program’s structure, devoted resources, leadership, and the annual work plan. The Quality Program Evaluation provides a brief description and quality indicator results over the previous 12 months. For instance, one of the QM initiatives is an annual patient satisfaction survey. Overall patient satisfaction rates over the last 3 years have ranged from 98% to 99%.

Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy’s commitment to education and training combined with the QM program was recognized on December 17, 2012, when the organization received specialty pharmacy accreditation status from URAC. While Diplomat was already accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Health Care and Community Health Accreditation Program, it was decided that adding URAC Specialty Pharmacy accreditation was an important marker for Diplomat’s best-in-class specialty pharmacy services.

The delivery of specialty pharmacy services and care is a complex process involving all types of integrated and interdependent processes. The establishment of Diplomat University, coupled with the corporate QM program, has allowed Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy to optimally deliver patient-centric care in a growing industry, while promoting patient safety and convenience and demonstrating highquality patient care.

About the Authors

Gary K. Rice, RPh, MS, MBA; Stephanie L. Freed, PharmD; and Jennifer K. Hagerman, PharmD, AE-C, are part of the Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy team in Flint, Michigan. Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy, founded in 1975, serves patients nationwide as the country’s largest privately held specialty pharmacy and focuses on complete medication management programs for patients with serious and chronic conditions. Key programs include oncology, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s, hemophilia/ IVIG, growth hormone, and psoriasis. Other specialty areas include transplant, fertility, and bio-identical hormone therapy.