The role of the clinical pharmacist is rapidly expanding to stay ahead of the changing dynamics brought upon by health care reform. This expansion of the pharmacist’s role creates new opportunities and trends for health system and hospital pharmacies in the new year.

The McKesson Pharmacy Optimization team, a group of trusted advisors that work to help elevate the value of health system pharmacies, has identified the top five trends that will impact hospital and health system pharmacies in 2017.

2017 Health System Pharmacy Trends
1. Continued Growth in Specialty Market

Growth in specialty pharmaceutical spend continues to outpace growth in the overall pharmaceutical market and is the top spend category for health system pharmacies. The expansion of limited networks and exclusive distribution channels for many specialty pharmaceuticals challenge health systems’ continuity of care initiatives. However, opportunities still exist for health system pharmacy leaders who understand and can demonstrate the unique clinical and operational competencies and expertise required to build, buy or partner with specialty pharmacies. Additionally, with the growth of biosimilars, pharmacists are poised to play a critical role in evaluating the balance between risks and patient benefit.

2. Leveraging Pharmacy Data Analytics to Make Strategic Business Decisions

Top Five Health System Pharmacy Trends to Watch in 2017Integrating comprehensive pharmacy data analytics to track and monitor drug spend and use, patient care, and quality is a top priority for health systems. Organizations can use this information to make better financial, clinical and operational decisions and drive improved outcomes. This type of investment can provide meaningful drug spend analysis, giving pharmacy leaders the evidence they need to successfully establish and track cost containment initiatives. This can also help to reduce drug spend, decrease manual work hours and improve efficiency so health systems can focus on medication safety and patient care. Related: Four Ways Hospital Pharmacies Can Leverage Data Analytics

3. Health System Pharmacy Seen as a Revenue and Margin Generator

Managing costs will always be important; however, health systems’ leaders are increasingly looking to pharmacy to generate more revenue and help improve margins. This will continue to drive growth of specialty and increased use of mail order to ship medications directly to patients’ homes. As healthcare consumerism grows, health systems will need to find new ways to capture patients as network participation will not be enough. For example, health system pharmacies can extend their continuum of care by providing discharge medications through their retail or ambulatory pharmacies.  More and more health systems are looking for partnership opportunities with retail pharmacies to share patient data to ensure all health care practitioners have access to current information.

4. Centralizing Pharmacy Operations and Improving Clinical Services

Sometimes referred to as clinical telepharmacy, the centralization of pharmacy operations is designed to help large health systems utilize a centralized hub to manage costs, improve order entry and verification, and standardize policies and procedures. Using telepharmacy software tools and services, large health systems can free up time for pharmacists and other staff (FTEs) to use more effectively on clinical patient care initiatives and generate revenue by servicing other hospitals, clinics or retail pharmacies.  This need for efficiency is also bolstering the use of centralized service centers to streamline pharmaceutical ordering, packaging and dispensing. These centralized functions can result in better efficiency and improved safety and cash flow. Additionally important to pharmacy operations are inventory management and supply chain visibility through solutions designed to help improve supply chain efficiency and patient satisfaction. Related: Centralizing Drug Distribution for Health System Pharmacies

5. Future Directions for Reform and the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Health care reform and the ACA were key issues throughout the election process and it is clear that the new administration will look to make changes to the ACA in the coming years. What is not clear yet is how quickly these changes will be implemented and what the impact will be on health systems.  However, likely changes include the elimination of the individual mandate, a reduction in taxes associated with the law, the elimination of cost-sharing subsidies and reversing Medicaid expansion.  Removing the mandate will increase the uninsured numbers as charity care cases go back up.  Pharmaceutical manufacturer patient assistance programs will continue to bring value ultimately helping health systems offset these write offs.

Editor’s note: Mark Eastham is Sr. Vice President and General Manager of the McKesson Pharmacy Optimization team. Mark leads highly trained pharmacists, consultants and specialists who work with healthcare leaders to reduce drug spend, increase supply chain efficiency, maximize reimbursements, improve profit through cost and revenue initiatives, and increase medication safety.

Related: Learn about McKesson’s health system and hospital pharmacy solutions.

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