4 Notable Trends for Pharmacy in 2017: Takeaways from ASHP Midyear

By Kevin Jones, RPh, MBA • December 30, 2016

ASHP Midyear Meeting 2016

Thousands of pharmacists gathered for the ASHP Midyear Meeting last month to learn and network. Throughout the robust discourse, we heard a continued focus on services that truly add value for patients, and in turn, for the health system.  Here are the four notable trends that we identified for 2017 where Pharmacy can have the greatest impact:

Antimicrobial stewardship programs

According to new guidelines from the CMS and Joint Commission, all healthcare facilities will need to implement an antimicrobial stewardship program (ASP) in 2017, which made it an important focus during the conference. Some clinical experts were boldly suggesting that the overprescribing of antibiotics is a bigger public health issue than the opioid epidemic because of emerging antibiotic resistance. Multiple CE sessions at the Midyear Meeting highlighted the importance of designing strong ASPs and discussed best practices for implementing these initiatives.

Managing medication costs

No healthcare provider can escape the challenges of combatting high drug spending this upcoming year. Pharmacists at ASHP explored how to monitor medications through the use of advanced technologies to complement their own expertise – such as finding generic or biosimilar alternatives for expensive name brand drugs or reducing overprescribing of some medications. Many uncertainties currently exist regarding the potential changes in the Affordable Care Act and the potential impact of such changes on hospital reimbursement rates and programs, such as the federal 340B disproportionate share program.

Pharmacists as part of primary care teams

The importance of having more pharmacists and pharmacy technicians practicing at the top of their licenses was another major theme of the Midyear Meeting. Pharmacists that are better integrated into primary care teams can help with critical elements of patient care – such as medication reconciliation, discharge counseling, and chronic disease state management. Pharmacists are also instrumental to the development of new clinical programs that improve patient outcomes while managing costs.

Optimizing Pharmacy operations

Increasing innovation in the healthcare technology field has allowed pharmacists to more easily streamline workflows and improve the safety of the patients they care for, a trend that we will continue to see in 2017. Beyond becoming more efficient, advanced technologies and clinical decision support (CDS) systems, such as those offered by PipelineRx, can also help identify more validated interventions that improve outcomes with quantifiable impact. In addition, solutions that optimize Pharmacy resources, such as telepharmacy services and centralized service models, can help free up pharmacists for the high-value clinical initiatives described above.

There is a fundamental restructuring to how we think about pharmacy services in the hospital, and the clinical value the department can provide. The importance of new health information technology continues to be a highlight of our industry.  However, in the face of likely legislative change, it’s important to think beyond the solutions and tools.  We also need to ensure that providers can implement them to the fullest with new operational models that optimize critical resources and maximize value to the communities they serve.

Kevin Jones, RPh, MBA, is VP of Pharmacy Services at PipelineRx. He has over 25 years of experience as a pharmacist and pharmacy manager in the hospital, institutional and home care settings, including serving as Director of Pharmacy at Denver Health Medical Center.