How hospitals can better align the pharmacy to achieve its strategic goals

As hospitals face the dual pressure of improving patient satisfaction and lowering costs, they are increasingly turning to their pharmacies for help on both fronts.

At a May 3 session at the Becker's Hospital Review 2nd Health IT + Clinical Leadership + Pharmacy 2019 conference, a panel of experts discussed the evolving role of pharmacists at their organizations. The panelists included:

• Christy Ciccarello, vice president of clinical pharmacy services at Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Novant Health
• Kelly Morrison, director of remote and retail pharmacy services at Cardinal Health, a healthcare services company
• Alice E. Taku, PharmD, director of pharmacy at Shreveport-based Promise Hospitals of Louisiana
• Eric R Gall, PharmD, director of pharmacy at Lincoln (Neb.) Surgical Hospital

Patient satisfaction is a key issue for hospitals. HCAHPS scores, which capture patient satisfaction via a survey and affect hospital reimbursement, focus one section on medication and communication, recording how patients are educated on medications while in the hospital and at the time of discharge, Dr. Taku said.

"This is an area which has been historically left to nurses and to physicians, but this is an area where maybe pharmacists can take a more active role," she said.

Ms. Ciccarello added that after patients at Novant Health were surveyed, officials found that one of patients' biggest struggles is understanding the medications they receive. It is important to make sure patients leave the hospital with a good understanding of what they are taking, how to take it and why it's important.

"[Another challenge] in particular in the acute care setting: Patients will come in to the hospital wanting what they want," she said. "They don't really understand what a hospital formulary is, why we have it and why it's important. So, as we connect in the pharmacy space with our patients, we really focus on the why."

Another way pharmacists can help improve patient outcomes is if they are brought out onto the floor to work with the care team and interact with patients.

"When pharmacy staff members are out working directly with patients and with physicians and nurses, they gain invaluable insights that they wouldn't typically get if they stay behind the four walls of the pharmacy," said Ms. Morrison. "As they gain those insights, they'll see gaps in the process and gaps in care that pharmacy can then take a lead role in improving."

As pharmacies are increasingly aligned with hospital strategy and new initiatives are put in place to integrate them into operations, staff buy-in will be key. Dr. Gall suggested using the "show me how this works" credo.

"Sometimes there is primary literature that shows that doing XY or Z helps, but also a lot of times, especially when you are looking at education-based things, or when you're looking at trying to push some new collaborative-based things, there isn't always buy-in for that," said Dr. Gall.

"But what staff appreciate more than anything is transparency and being up front with them. We all want to do what is best for the patients," he said.

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