5 pharmacy leaders talk 2022 goals

As workforce shortages plague pharmacies and the industry adjusts to the $739 billion drug-pricing bill the Senate narrowly passed Aug. 7, here are what five pharmacy hospital and health system executives told Becker's their priorities are for the rest of 2022.

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.

Mike Bertagnolli. System Manager of Pharmacy Services at Bozeman (Mont.) Health Deaconess Hospital: NOT GO CRAZY!!! As many hospitals — if not MOST — are dealing with the lack of staff and subsequent reliance on agency help, especially nursing, has had a significant negative financial impact on my organization as well as others. For the first time EVER, I had to rely on agency assistance for pharmacy technicians last year, a very essential but significant expense. We're being tasked to do more with less. As we move out of the pandemic, hospitals aren't seeing the acuity that was seen last year, which means less volumes and revenue than projected. We are busy and staffing is an issue, especially for pharmacy technicians. Recruiting and retaining pharmacy technicians is likely the No. 1 issue for a majority of health systems.

Brookie Best, PharmD. Dean of the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at UC San Diego: As the pandemic has highlighted, pharmacists are well-positioned to manage chronic medication therapy, assist in population public health programs (such as immunization delivery and testing), and improve healthcare access for marginalized communities. I plan to focus on advocacy for allowing licensing oversight and scope of practice to better align with current training and skills of pharmacists, and expand sustainable financial models that allow pharmacists to provide optimal care, improving patient outcomes and the health of our communities.

Antony Gobin, PharmD. Assistant Vice President of Pharmacy at Loma Linda (Calif.) University Health: I don't think there are any pharmacy executives that wouldn't view the pharmaceutical supply chain as one of their top priorities for the remainder of the year. It has been a persistent problem for several years. Pivoting to an alternative therapy without compromising patient care has been something we're all forced to prioritize.  

Like most healthcare organizations, we've had to prioritize staffing challenges. Loma Linda University Health is fortunate to be a top choice for those who need care, but that demands we operate at full capacity at all times. Thankfully we have a high retention rate, but there is still an opportunity to add needed staff. 

Formulary strategies and reimbursement challenges are also a high priority. Pharmaceuticals are high on the list of expenses for hospitals, making it important for leaders in pharmacy to focus on cost reduction and implementing formulary strategies that help facilitate cost efficiency. 

Shawn Parekh, PharmD. Chief Pharmacy Officer of Temple University Health System (Philadelphia): My top priorities are to develop a culture across our enterprise that is first focused on patient safety and sustainability of new programs and processes. We will develop an approach to improving current operations with a focus on reliability and patient safety. We have begun an upgrade of all automation, targeting completion of the BD Pyxis ES upgrade by middle of 2023. Our clean rooms are in need of an overhaul across our major hospitals, and we expect to complete more than half of the build-out by the end of this calendar year. 

Another top priority is further investment in strengthening our drug diversion prevention program, which not only focuses internally but prioritizes our community. In tandem with our health system, we will be working closely with leadership to build out our new women's health hospital by late 2023. Lastly, we are on a fast track in truly optimizing our specialty pharmacy services. Our second specialty pharmacy launched in March of 2022, and we will make it a hub for the system with pending URAC accreditation in the last quarter of 2022.

Kyle Skiermont. Vice President of Pharmacy and Oncology and Assistant Dean for Clinical Affairs at Nebraska Medicine (Omaha): I think one is workforce stabilization, or lack of it. Coming out of the pandemic and the usual turnover, ensuring that we're providing roles that are challenging and rewarding for people such that they want to be in our organization. It's also having care and empathy for people who are coming off of almost three years now of emotional fatigue, putting in a lot of extra hours and not a lot of vacations. I don't mean vacations from people taking time off from work, but people really stepping away from work has been something we've found our staff and our colleagues have had a challenge doing that. Even if they've taken days off or have been fortunate enough to travel, anytime you turn on the news or anytime you talk to anyone, COVID is so pervasive in healthcare and pharmacy, it's been really hard for people to get away from it.

Another priority in the clinical realm is ensuring from a pharmacy perspective is that pharmacists have always been a vital part of the healthcare team, but I think we had the opportunity to really shine through the pandemic everywhere from doing new things, leading the rollout for the vaccines, but also highlighting pharmacists have done for years and years. I can think of many things that pharmacists have done on rounds on our critical care floors and general medicine floors around COVID-19 patients that weren't all that different from what we've done from cardiac patients, transplant patients, you name it, going back a number of years. I think it's a combination of making sure that pharmacists stay at the spot they've earned at the table in the broader healthcare team. But, it's also continuing to push the envelope on some of those new expectations or new duties that the pharmacists really can take on.

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