How a health system alliance is advocating for hospital-owned specialty pharmacies

In October 2020, seven health systems united to form the Health System Owned Specialty Pharmacy Alliance, or HOSP, to advocate for health system-owned specialty pharmacies. 

The group has grown significantly since its launch, with nearly 30 health systems now participating. Here, Gary Kerr, PharmD, the president of HOSP's board of directors and the chief pharmacy officer at Springfield, Mass.-based Baystate Health, answers questions about the group's work and plans.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and style.

Q: ​​Why do health system-owned specialty pharmacies need their own voice?

Dr. Gary Kerr: HOSP acts as the "face and voice" of the integrated specialty pharmacy industry, advocating for and uniting members around common industry interests and concerns. The industry needs its own voice because while there are several organizations that represent many general interests impacting health system specialty pharmacy, there hasn't been one organization that represents all the interests of the industry in one place. Our goal is to help bring the industry together so health system-owned specialty pharmacies have a seat at the table and ensure that their interests are represented. That said, we recognize there is some great work underway by other organizations, and we don’t intend to duplicate efforts. Rather, we are supportive of that work and intend to focus on the areas where there are gaps.

Specialty pharmacies focus on delivering medications for more complex and chronic illnesses. More than 1 in 4 specialty pharmacies are now owned by health systems, a trend that is continuing to grow as hospitals look for ways to improve patient care. The integrated specialty pharmacy model helps keep a critical piece of patient care — medication management and treatment — inside the health system, instead of outsourcing to a more fragmented approach to care. From a physical plant perspective alone many of these system-owned specialty pharmacies operate on campus along with the clinicians’ offices, share the electronic medical record with the prescribers and control all aspects of the land-based courier services.

Q: How many health systems are involved in HOSP?

GK: We had a great first year, and membership has increased significantly year over year.  We currently have nearly 30 health systems participating, and we are growing fast. We also unveiled an active campaign this fall, now underway, to identify and embrace new partnerships beyond the core of the health system specialty pharmacy members. The HOSP Partnership Program offers a unique way for like-minded organizations to collaborate with and support our industry.

Q: What does HOSP's collaboration with health systems look like?  

GK: We don’t collaborate with health systems, but rather our membership is composed of health systems who are generally represented by their system’s integrated specialty pharmacy leadership. Members actively and thoughtfully collaborate to share emerging best practices, discuss innovative work processes and patient care solutions and develop and advance a unified voice on a variety of policy issues. Members are also focused on full engagement on how to demonstrate and share the value of the integrated specialty pharmacy model, by shaping the metrics data aspect of the care model. 

Q: What have been HOSP’s biggest accomplishments since its launch?

GK: HOSP has done a lot in one year. We've established a very strong board of directors and have been steadily increasing our membership base. We have four dedicated hardworking committees. One is the innovation committee, whose goal is to increase awareness and influence actions to improve quality of care and patient outcomes with improved patient management software integration in health systems-owned specialty pharmacies. They have dug deeply into the patient journey to find where there are gaps that technologies and other solutions could help address. We’ll be highlighting them more in the near future.

Another committee you’ll be hearing about is our Health Economics and Research Outcomes committee, which owns HOSP’s work to develop and collaborate on the most valuable data (metrics) that helps promote the value of the integrated, specialty pharmacy care model. Our advocacy committee just sent a letter introducing HOSP and outlining our top priorities to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and top congressional officials.  

We’ve also made some great inroads in beginning some new initiatives that we’ll be advancing in 2022, including our HOSP best practice groups, which bring leaders across membership together to share best practices on a variety of issues. 

Q: What initiatives does HOSP have planned for the future?

GK: In addition to growing our membership and keeping our committees focused on the great work we are producing, we’re planning an in-person member event in early 2022. Since we launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have yet to get together in person, so we’re very excited to finally get together in the same space.

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