Insights - Article

Pharmacy Optimization: How Telepharmacy is Transformative, Part 1

This is a two-part article on pharmacy optimization and pharmacy staffing models. This first part focuses on multi-facility hospitals and ACOs. To learn how you can optimize pharmacy staffing and optimization in individual hospitals check out Part 2.

Hospital CorridorIf your organization is like most multi-facility hospitals, you have one or more flagship facilities along with numerous satellite or community facilities. The pharmacy department at flagships are typically heavily staffed 24/7 while satellite facilities tend to be more lightly staffed with potential coverage gaps.

Each facility sees significant fluctuations in pharmacy demand for medication order review that vary throughout the day, week, and the year. It’s financially prohibitive to staff sufficiently to provide optimum turnaround times during the highest demand periods or potential emergencies.

It’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to physically shift staff from location to location to cover times of high demand. In addition to geographic constraints, pharmacists have to deal with potential differences in EHR systems and policies and procedures at each facility.

This is made even more complicated when dealing with normal staffing challenges like vacation, personal leave, and unscheduled callouts.

Given the natural ebb and flow of patient demands, as well as normal staffing scheduling headaches, the average health system simultaneously has both underutilized and overworked pharmacists.

The result is uneven turnaround times for medication order review, overworked (and underutilized) staff, and the resulting sub-optimal patient experiences, clinical outcomes, and staff morale. Plus, most organizations are still left with smaller facilities that lack 24/7 pharmacy coverage.

Telepharmacy Allows Multi-Facility Load Balancing

telepharmacyTelepharmacy allows multi-facility organizations like ACOs and IDNs to optimize pharmacist labor across the system.

Telepharmacy is often used to describe outsourcing of remote pharmacists. But the underlying technology platform can also be used to optimize your own onsite resources using the same principles.

By using cloud-based software to centralize and dynamically allocate medication orders for clinical review, the dispersed team can operate as a coordinated virtual team, with medication orders assigned based on pharmacist availability, history with a patient, and specialization such as pediatrics or oncology.

In short, telepharmacy offers a straightforward way to optimize pharmacy resources across your system and provide 24/7 service with equalized turnaround time to all of your facilities.

What’s more, since most pharmacies are located in a specific location of the hospital, quite often the basement, from a practical perspective telepharmacy should bring no workflow changes for physicians, nurses, or other key stakeholders. They literally can’t tell the difference.

Free up Staff for High-value Clinical Initiatives

This greater operational efficiency frees up more pharmacist time to extend coverage to the emergency department, provide more personalized patient care, and tackle clinical initiatives like antimicrobial stewardship, medication reconciliation, and discharge counseling.

How it’s Done

Telepharmacy isn’t rocket science, but it’s not simple either.

pharmacy optimization - rocket

Telepharmacy software must integrate with existing EHRs for CPOE orders, as well as manual systems such as faxes and scanners, to create a single unified pane for pharmacists to review all incoming medication orders… no matter which facility the orders are coming from or the underlying tangle of IT infrastructure. Additionally, the software needs to provide guidance on any varying policies and procedures for each individual facility.

Increase Efficiency, Utilization, and Coverage

Clinical pharmacists are highly paid resources with highly variable utilization rates. Telepharmacy allows you to smooth out those peaks and valleys, expand coverage, and provide more consistent turnaround times for improved quality of care. It also produces operational efficiencies that can be translated into significant savings or reinvested in expanded pharmacy-driven clinical initiatives.

Want to know more? We’ve developed a calculator to help administrators understand how telepharmacy software can optimize your onsite pharmacy resources. It’s yours for the asking.