Insights - Article

The Flexibility of Telepharmacy vs. Per Diem Pharmacists or Locum Tenens Pharmacists

Healthcare organizations and hospitals understand the importance of pharmacy operations to their entire health system. Unreliable pharmacy turnaround times of medication orders and overworked employees can lead to more strain on nursing, a negative impact on patient care, and higher turnover rates.

Optimizing pharmacy workflows is key to maintaining smooth hospital operations.

Optimizing pharmacy processes for medication order review is one key to maintaining high hospital rankings, increasing employee satisfaction, and providing better patient care. But optimization is easier said than done.

The typical clinical pharmacy sees significant fluctuations in demand — fluctuations that occur throughout the day, week, and the year. However, good patient care demands consistent turnaround times at all times. This is made even more challenging when dealing with normal staffing challenges like:

  • Vacation
  • Maternity, paternity, and personal leave
  • Sick time, unscheduled callouts, and terminations
  • Natural disasters

What’s the best way to handle these fluctuations in pharmacist supply and demand?

Traditionally, the primary options have been:

  • Staff up to create surplus capacity in case of emergency

    Very expensive with low flexibility, but high quality

  • Utilize per diem/locum tenens/temporary staff

    Somewhat less expensive and more flexible, but lower quality

Telepharmacy now presents a third option for supplementing your staff.

  • Scheduled or on-demand telepharmacy services

    Low cost, very high flexibility, and high quality

Let’s take a look at these options in more detail:

Hire Additional Full-Time Staff or Add Overtime and Additional Shifts

The most expensive solution to creating additional capacity for peak loads and staffing issues would be to simply hire more full-time pharmacists to work in your pharmacy to provide reserve capacity. Although this might seem ideal, it’s generally too inflexible and expensive to be practical.

telepharmacy vs per diem pharmacy - clockFull-time staff also require benefits packages and must be paid severance and/or state unemployment benefits if laid off.

Hospitals can also solve the problem by requiring overtime or shifting some staff to cover understaffed shifts. Unfortunately, these shifts are usually undesirable to the pharmacists who must work them and excessive overtime can lead to pharmacist burnout , increased mistakes, and staff turnover.

Hire Temporary/Locum Tenens/Per Diem Pharmacy Staff

Hiring temporary staff is another viable option. Often called locum tenens or per diem pharmacists, many organizations find this a good solution to supplementing and supporting their current staff.

Per diem pharmacy staffing provides organizations with a little more flexibility than hiring full-time pharmacists outright. Instead of committing them to a full 40-hour week, locum tenens pharmacists can be hired on a per-day or per-hour basis.

Hiring per diem pharmacy staff can help support your regular pharmacy staff.

Although per diem pharmacists do provide hospitals with additional flexibility, there are some downsides:

  • High hourly cost: Per diem pharmacists have high hourly rates. This makes them a very expensive way to cover low-volume shifts, longer-term maternity and other leaves of absence, or unscheduled call-outs.
  • Low job satisfaction: Per diem pharmacists often feel disconnected from their jobs. Constantly moving or switching between facilities makes it difficult to establish relationships with nursing staff or other pharmacy team members. Unfortunately, this disconnect can lead to low quality pharmacy operations and patient care.
  • Everything takes longer: Every hospital and pharmacy has different policies and procedures, so even the most skilled pharmacists take longer to complete routine tasks and their error rate is typically higher.

Utilize Telepharmacy Services

telepharmacy vs per diem pharmacy - telepharmacyThe most cost-effective way organizations can add flexible capacity is by using telepharmacy. Telepharmacy allows organizations to utilize remote staff through telecommunication technologies.

This “on-demand” system provides extremely high flexibility. When outsourced, pricing is typically done on a per-order basis so covering an off-hour shift is oftentimes 50-75% less than the cost of full-time or temporary staff.

Telepharmacy is the most flexible and cost-effective solution to improving pharmacy operations.

Operational Benefits:

  • Greatest flexibility: Scheduled or on-demand staffing provides each organization with unique customization options and flexibility.
  • No service bottlenecks: Regardless of peak hours or emergencies, utilizing remote pharmacists provides more consistent medication order turnaround times, which streamlines nursing workflow and improves hospital operations. Plus, pharmacists can be assigned and trained on your organization’s specific processes and procedures so they don’t take additional time performing routine tasks.
  • Consistent coverage: Pharmacists are available 24/7/365 so you don’t have to worry about disrupted operations due to pharmacist vacations, leaves, sick time, or last minute emergencies.
  • Specialists available: Specialized pharmacists are always available either online or over the phone to consult with nurses and physicians about oncology, pediatrics, and other specialty pharmacy needs.
  • Extend coverage: Telepharmacy provides a cost effective option for extending to 24/7 pharmacy coverage.
  • Start the day on track: In the absence of 24/7 operations, first-shift pharmacists often have to play catch up on overnight orders. By utilizing remote services for low volume night shifts and weekends, your in-house pharmacists can start their day on track without feeling overwhelmed.

Financial Benefits: Cost-Effective Pharmacy Operations Support Your Entire Hospital

  • Flexible payment models: Shift pharmacy expenses from a fixed-cost to a variable-cost allowing you to scale operations up or down as needed.
  • No overtime: No need to pay overtime or per diem pharmacists.
  • No last minute panics: Full-coverage is available for all contracted shifts with pre-negotiated work and rates. Never worry about last minute sick time or family emergencies again.

Telepharmacy with PipelineRx: The Most Flexible and Cost Effective Solution

At PipelineRx, our remote telepharmacy services are available 24/7/365 and charged on either a per-hour or per-order basis, providing optimum staffing and financial flexibility for your organization’s unique needs.

PipelineRx is also able to check the high-quality box as well thanks to experienced staff, rigorous training, and innovative software that ensures pharmacists have the information they need to make the best clinical decisions while reinforcing each facility’s unique policies and procedures.

PipelineRx is very proud of our quality statistics:

  • Zero malpractice claims
  • 100+ US-based W-2 pharmacists with
    • 10-15 years of average experience
    • 66% holding advanced or specialized degrees
  • 90% of interventions accepted by the physician
  • 10X lower variance rate than the national average

Want more information about our remote telepharmacy services or software? Contact us or sign up for a demo.

Tired of working locum tenens?

We are always looking for highly-skilled clinical pharmacists to join our team. Gain all the flexibility of being a per diem pharmacist or locum tenens pharmacist without having to constantly move between facilities. Become part of a supportive pharmacist team and maintain relationships with nursing staff.

By working with us you receive:

  • Challenging work supporting multiple hospitals and EHR systems
  • Consistent, intuitive workflow using pharmacist-designed software
  • Competitive compensation and benefits packages

Plus, you can work from your own HIPAA-compliant home office. No more long commutes or being tied to a specific location.

Take a look at our careers page for open positions or contact us for more information.