CompleteRx Regional Director of Pharmacy Joe Vargas offers 3 tips to manage drug spend

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Joe Vargas is the regional director of pharmacy operations for CompleteRx, a pharmacy management, consulting and operations improvement provider.

In his role, which he has held for more than seven years, Mr. Vargas oversees multiple pharmacies in the Eastern U.S., mentoring staff, developing strategy and improving safety and efficacy.

Becker's Hospital Review recently asked him to discuss the skills pharmacy leaders need in today's healthcare climate, how to control pharmacy spend and the disruptors that have his attention.

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

Question: When it comes to managing drug spend, what advice would you offer other pharmacy leaders?
Joe Vargas: I believe there are three basic ways to managing drug spend. First, verify that the department is purchasing based on current GPO contract pricing and that those prices have been loaded correctly at the wholesaler level. Second, review the wholesalers 80/20 report to determine which medications are driving the department's drug costs. Finally, review that list to look for opportunities to drive clinically appropriate, cost-effective utilization of those high cost medications. This can be done by implementing therapeutic interchange and through the development and implementation of evidence-based protocols approved by the medical staff through the pharmacy and therapeutics committee.

Q: What skills are essential for pharmacy leaders in today's healthcare climate?

JV: Pharmacy leaders today need a broad knowledge base and a good working knowledge of supply chain management, inventory management, operational management, personnel management, clinical program management, strategic planning, project management, informatics and automation management, regulatory and accreditation compliance and revenue cycle. They also need to know how to build relationships with hospital leadership, nursing, medical staff and the pharmacy staff. It's vital for pharmacy leaders to mentor and coach their management team and staff and have a solid succession plan. It may seem like an overwhelming list, but it accurately reflects the complexity of our current healthcare system and the skills and experience needed to effectively manage hospital pharmacy services in today's healthcare climate.

Q: What has been one of your proudest moments as regional director of pharmacy operations at CompleteRx?

JV: I take great pride in the quality, operational, clinical and financial improvements we provide to our partner hospitals. I am proud of the strong relationships we've built with our client leadership teams based on a joint commitment to quality service and excellence.

Q: What disruptors have your attention?

JV: I'm excited to see the splash that some of our largest, most influential companies will make in healthcare, including the partnership of Berkshire Hathaway, Amazon and JPMorgan. I'm interested to see how they band together to disrupt the current healthcare model and build integrated approaches to the delivery of healthcare.

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