Pharmacy leader Dr. Hillary Blackburn on the importance of embracing technology

Alia Paavola - Print  | 

Hillary Blackburn, PharmD, serves as the director of pharmaceutical services for Dispensary of Hope, a charitable medication distributor.

In her role, Dr. Blackburn consults with pharmacies and clinics to improve medication access nationwide and is tasked with overseeing formulary development, establishing research initiatives and managing a volunteer network of strategic advisors.

Dr. Blackburn, who has been a practicing pharmacist for nearly a decade, is licensed in 11 states. She also recently founded a pharmacy-focused podcast, dubbed Talk to Your Pharmacist, in which she shares the stories of successful pharmacy leaders and current healthcare trends.

Becker's Hospital Review recently asked her to discuss the biggest concern and opportunity for pharmacy leaders this year, how pharmacy leaders can determine priorities and one buzzword in healthcare that needs to be eliminated.

Here's what she had to say.

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

Question: What would you say is the No. 1 concern for pharmacy leaders today?

Dr. Hillary Blackburn: Controlling costs and generating revenue. Health systems are looking to the pharmacy department to help rein in costs primarily by managing drug spend. The pharmacy is accomplishing this in several ways, including using formulary drug use controls, preventing medication waste and staying up-to-date on drug-pricing projections. Pharmacy leaders should also remain proactive and strategize with their team to predict any potential medication shortages.

Generating revenue can be accomplished through optimizing an outpatient pharmacy through the capture of employee prescription revenue and discharge prescriptions so that patients leave with medications in hand. Additionally, health systems are looking to build their own specialty pharmacy to generate revenue.

Q: What would you say is the biggest opportunity for pharmacy this year?

HB: Embracing technology. Technology can be leveraged in several ways, whether its integrating pharmacy analytics to monitor and assess drug spend or staying up-to-date through social media platforms such as LinkedIn or podcasts like mine, Talk to Your Pharmacist, where over 80 pharmacy leaders from across the country have shared their leadership stories, innovative practice settings and discussed current trends. Incorporating technology into workflows can help bring automation to routine tasks and free up pharmacists time to do more of the patient care activities. This ultimately improves outcomes and patient experience. Finally, turning data into meaningful insights with technology can help tell the story of the value pharmacy services brings to an organization.

Q: When choosing new programs to roll out in the pharmacy to tackle some of the pressing challenges, how can a pharmacy leader decide what is truly a "priority" to address?

HB: Ensuring that any potential program aligns with health system goals can help pharmacy leaders identify true priorities. Pharmacy leaders should be educating other leaders about how pharmacy skills can be used in new areas of healthcare so that buy-in exists before the roll out of a new program. If leaders can successfully demonstrate the "why" and help others understand the value behind pharmacy services and how it aligns with the system's strategic plan, then they are on the right track to prioritizing successful pharmacy programs.

Q: What is a buzzword in healthcare you wish we could get rid of?

HB: Breaking down healthcare silos. We have been aware of silos existing in healthcare for over a decade, yet they still exist.  I'm encouraged that current pharmacy curriculum puts an emphasis on interprofessional training to instill the collaborative mindset early in their careers.  We have to transition from siloed thinking to systems thinking.  Reading articles, including those on the Becker's website, brings leaders a broader perspective to see how pharmacy, or any other field, fits into the bigger healthcare picture.

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