Hospital and health system leaders are recognizing the important role pharmacies play in the complex financial and service equation of their organizations. Thus, resulting in a number of system-level pharmacy leadership positions — Chief Pharmacy Officer, Vice President of Pharmacy Services, or Executive Director of Pharmacy Services among others — are on the rise.
In a risk-based payment environment pharmacies play a critical part in lowering the cost of care and meeting quality goals. Common objectives of pharmacies include assisting with revenue generation and improving services throughout the care continuum.
Above all, professionals looking to launch their executive healthcare career must be “responsible for creating and executing strategic plans to ensure high-quality pharmaceutical care and to maximize returns from pharmacy investments.”
The Advisory Board consulting company explores how changes in healthcare delivery, health system goals and the future role of pharmacy executives in a recent report titled “Elevating Pharmacy Leadership to Meet System Goals”.
Chief Pharmacy Officer Responsibilities
Today’s pharmacy isn’t just about procuring medicine from manufacturers, distributers and managing in-patient pharmaceutical services, as it had been in the past.
Changes in policy and organizational initiatives are impacting the role pharmacists play in meeting the goals of the Triple Aim. In 2017 the executive pharmacy team's responsibilities include:
- understanding industry trends and forecasting future drug expenditures
- evaluating and maintaining IT systems (and robotics)
- helping to reduce the number of patient readmissions
- negotiating advantageous contracts with suppliers
- operating specialty pharmacy services
Robert T. Adamson, Pharm.D., FASHP, spoke with HealthLeaders Media about the value of a Chief Pharmacy Officer, after being named into the new position for RWJBarnabas Health of New Jersey, a health network serving more than 2 million patients each year. “Without a CPO, it's very difficult to marry the strategic plan of the health system with the direction of pharmacy,” he states.
Adamson's responsibilities include overseeing a group in charge of pharmacy financials. Initiatives at RWJBarnabas Health have included focusing on improvements regarding the length of patients’ stays and readmission rates. One effort has strived to mitigate the side effects of drugs given at discharge to improve the patient experience and reduce the likelihood of readmission, which often is a result of complications from medications.
Benefits of Executive Pharmacy Leadership
Having a pharmacy leader positioned at the executive level allows for more effective collaboration in strategic initiatives and system-wide issues, particularly those involving medications and their management, noted a statement by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).
The organization went on to say, an executive must be professionally competent and legally qualified as a pharmacist and experienced in hospital management and pharmacy practice. Furthermore, additional qualifications may include an advanced management degree in health administraion or a pharmacy or administrative residency program.
The valuable perspectives and instrumental leadership that pharmacy executives provide towards achieving organization-wide goals was validated in an article in the ASHP InterSections magazine, “At the hospital level, pharmacy directors are trained care providers who also have unique skill sets as astute financial and business managers because of the expense and complexity of the technologies and departments they manage,” said David Chen, B.S. Pharm., M.B.A., and ASHP’s senior director, Section of Pharmacy Practice Managers.
Chen adds, as health systems become larger and more complex through mergers and acquisitions, there is a growing need for leaders who can help with system-wide oversight of pharmacy and medication-related matters.
Bonnie Levin, Pharm.D., M.B.A., and assistant vice president of pharmacy services at MedStar Health, a system comprising more than 120 entities in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. region, said pharmacy executives have valuable experience to leverage during times of crisis or great change. “Having worked through drug shortages or developed programs to help reduce readmissions, you can make the case for how pharmacists can play an innovative role in addressing those issues,” Levin adds.
Todd Karpinski, Pharm.D, MS, FASHP, FACHE, the CPO of the regional health network of Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, said the biggest benefit of his role and the realignment of pharmacy, may be the ease with which previously separate entities now share best practices.
Karpinski says, systems are seeing the importance of having a CPO-level executive at the table. “Pharmaceuticals are becoming a huge part of the financial obligation of healthcare organizations, and these organizations are realizing the value that pharmacy brings."
As the industry-wide shift continues to move from fee-for-service to value-based care executive leadership positions, once held primarily by business and management professionals, are being filled by nurse executives, physician executives, and now pharmacy executives.
If you are pharmacist aspiring to lead healthcare organizations through disruptive change, learn how earning an Executive Master of Health Administration degree from USC’s Price School of Public Policy can accelerate your career advancement to an executive position in pharmacy.