A bright future for hospital pharmacy
For hospital pharmacies, the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has triggered an abrupt and intensive re-evaluation of almost every aspect of their operations, from the logistics of drug supply to the relationships so essential to delivery. of quality care. As hard as it may be to imagine today, the pandemic will eventually be under control. It is not clear exactly how and when this will happen.
But now is the time for pharmacies to figure out what changes to keep as they move forward and ensure they have the right partners to support a bright future.
The state of the hospital pharmacy
The pressure on hospital pharmacies was immense for those in the Northeast, the epicenter of COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic. At the same time, he challenged pharmacists and their supplier partners to work together to seize the opportunity.
“I’ve seen a lot of people mature quickly because they’ve never experienced anything like this before,” said Robert Bepko, senior director of network pharmacy services, Nuvance Health.
Bepko was part of a pharmacy team in which the 7 hospitals in the health system combined their resources to help treat the virus.
“By working hand in hand with our pharmaceutical distributor, we are proud to say that no patient in the 7 hospitals has deprived themselves of the drugs they need,” he said.
New ways of working together
For Nuvance Health, McKesson’s new Critical Care Drugs Task Force was instrumental in helping them overcome supply chain challenges that emerged as the pandemic gained traction. The team of pharmacists, administrators and purchasing specialists used data analysis to track trends in COVID-19 treatment to understand the use of different drugs and the supply volumes that hospitals would need .
The task force is already expanding its analysis to include non-COVID-19 drugs to help pharmacies maintain the same level of visibility and trust after the pandemic. The team is also looking beyond drugs to items such as needles, syringes and personal protective equipment to develop predictive models for supply and assurance of supply.
In these scenarios, pharmaceutical distributors evolve into business experts for distribution-related groups, whether they need data and analytics, supply forecasting, or information on customer interactions.
The role of pharmacists as health care providers
Bepko believes that the value of professional pharmacists in the healthcare industry has long been underestimated. But COVID-19 elevated the role of the pharmacist, because knowing how drugs and treatments that might be helpful for the virus work was so important.
In hospitals, pharmacists have played a key role in setting up temporary COVID-19 units and field hospitals, especially with patients on ventilators.
“Titration for people on ventilators is an art,” Bepko said. “With the rotation of pharmacists in these intensive care units, their services have been well appreciated. “
The pandemic has indeed underlined the essential role of pharmacists in the care of patients. Yet to continue to elevate the profession, it is up to pharmacists to get involved beyond the walls of their own healthcare system. Being more active in pharmacy societies in the healthcare system, for example, helps encourage members of the profession to work together and in a more collaborative way.
Telemedicine and digital connections are here to stay
The evolution of telemedicine is one of the most significant changes in healthcare as a whole. Virtual healthcare technology has been around for years, but widespread quarantines have forced doctors and patients to interact outside of the office.
Telemedicine will play an increasingly important role in the interaction between pharmacists and patients, as well as between colleagues and supplier partners. The digital connection provides flexibility in the day-to-day operation of a health system pharmacy and increases the efficiency of medication management. Distributors are able to interact with pharmacies more frequently to keep needed drugs in stock and to find out which relief supplies are the most beneficial.
Patient assistance programs and income recovery
The widespread unemployment that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many people to lose their employer-provided health insurance. Hospitals have admitted critically ill patients without a guarantee of reimbursement for expensive treatments.
Fortunately, many pharmaceutical manufacturers have approved their products used for COVID-19 treatment to be eligible for Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs). According to data from McKesson clients, some hospitals have already seen a 15% increase in the number of patients identified in need of financial support.
Until the unemployment rate improves, the population in need of financial assistance will remain high. Several states have extended Medicaid; However, if other states follow suit, the type of assistance patients are eligible for may shift from PAPs to programs that help patients pay for what insurance does not cover, such as copayments and fees. franchises.
The importance of partnership
When a crisis like COVID-19 strikes, pharmacies focus on getting the drugs and supplies they need, when they need them. In some cases, however, getting what they need takes time.
Manufacturers or ingredient suppliers may be overseas, using inexpensive shipping methods to reduce costs, but extending the length of the supply chain. Healthcare systems not only deserve transparency on these issues, they also need a distribution partner with advanced data and analytical capabilities to find and reassign products to pharmacies with immediate needs.
Bepko recognized that the performance of its pharmacy team was closely linked to a strong partnership with its supplier.
“We were confident when we reported the status of our supplies twice a day that McKesson was doing all he could for us,” he said. “I was able to make network calls with hospital presidents and chief physicians and assure them that each location would have what it needed for the next 72 hours, regardless of the influx of patients. You have no idea how this lifted everyone’s morale.
As scenarios like these illustrated so well at the height of the pandemic, the future of pharmacy depends on close relationships between distributors and pharmacists. For example, account managers in the field can help pharmacists focus on progress by listening to their needs and filling that gap, either by improving a current product or developing a new one.
The healthcare industry continues to face the challenge of sustaining supplies in a changing treatment environment. To continue this trend for success, pharmacists must use the lessons learned during COVID-19, refine the adaptations that worked, and move on from what didn’t.
Perhaps the most important lesson for moving forward is the importance of collaboration. By working with trusted partners, hospital pharmacies can solve today’s problems and explore new opportunities, ensuring a bright future after COVID-19.