Report Finds Opportunities for Health System Pharmacists to Play a Greater Role

The research, a part of AmerisourceBergen’s first-ever Pharmacy Check-Up: Activity & Barriers to Care Analysis, examined various pharmacy settings.

Nearly 80% of hospital pharmacists look forward to a greater role in health care and are well positioned to take on an expanded role, according to new research sponsored by AmerisourceBergen.

The research, a part of AmerisourceBergen’s first-ever "Pharmacy Check-Up: Activity & Barriers to Care Analysis," examined various pharmacy settings, including chain, hospital, independent, and specialty pharmacies, to identify barriers to care and understand how pharmacists' time is spent. More than 250 pharmacists were surveyed in a study conducted by global research company Maru/Matchbox.

Additionally, AmerisourceBergen directly surveyed ambulatory pharmacies for the newly released "Ambulatory Outlook for Health System Pharmacies," sponsored by Pharmacy Healthcare Solutions. Evaluating a specific pharmacy segment, the research includes benchmarks and best practices for health systems to further integrate their ambulatory and specialty pharmacy strategies in a margin-compressed environment.

Although these research initiatives explore different aspects of the pharmacy industry, both showed opportunities for process and technology improvements needed to overcome barriers to care. Streamlining prior authorization and reimbursement processes continues to be a challenge, and all pharmacy segments are focused on building stronger prescriber relationships to improve continuity and quality of care.

“With their proximity to providers, shared access to electronic medical records, and strong commitment to outcomes, health system pharmacies are uniquely positioned to support clinically-integrated care,” Willis Chandler, president of health systems and specialty services at AmerisourceBergen, said in a statement.

“At AmerisourceBergen, we are seeing manufacturers and payers develop a greater understanding of the value of health system specialty pharmacies that is leading to increased inclusion in distribution networks and payer contracts," he said. "As a supply chain partner, we will continue to advocate for health system pharmacies as a site of care and help them address barriers so that patients can realize the full benefit of a coordinated care ecosystem.”

Compared with other pharmacy types, hospital pharmacists are already spending more time on important coordination activities, such as communicating with health care providers, according to the Pharmacy Check-Up survey.

Although health system pharmacists communicate most with providers, there is a need for even more consistent, transparent dialogue.

In fact, 71% of these pharmacists said that they want to build a better relationship with providers.

Hospital pharmacists think that this relationship will be important in the future, with 53% saying that they expect to spend more time communicating with providers in the next 5 years.

The Pharmacy Check-Up research also found that compared with other pharmacy types, hospital pharmacists are also spending more time on data-reporting and educating patients on adverse effects, how to take medicine as directed, and medication safety.

They are spending more time on advanced patient programs, such as medication therapy management compared than other pharmacies, but 60% of hospital pharmacists said that they wish they were spending even more time on this type of activity.

Although hospital pharmacies are leading the pack in terms of the time they are spending on advanced patient programs, they are experiencing barriers to providing good care. Top barriers are medication availability and time spent communicating with health care providers.

In addition, many hospital pharmacists indicate lack of staff and bandwidth (82%).

This is consistent with findings in the "Ambulatory Outlook for Health System Pharmacies" report that finds that within the health system setting, pharmacists must fill a disproportionate share of new prescriptions versus refill prescriptions and manage patients with more complex conditions, compounding needs, and medications. As a result, the labor needs are more intensive than in the retail setting.

“Many hospitals within their ambulatory and specialty pharmacies are looking to find ways to deal with staffing constraints, reimbursement compression, product access limitations and contracting with their biggest payers. These are major concerns that are keeping pharmacy leaders up at night," Matt Wolf, group vice president of Pharmacy Healthcare Solutions, a part of Amerisource Bergen, said in a statement.

"If these barriers can be mitigated, the opportunities for driving new sources of revenue and improved patient outcomes are significant,” he said. “Health systems should know that they can turn to their distribution partner who can help solve many of these issues.”