7 Benefits to Outsourcing Your Hospital Pharmacy Services

Healthcare workers and pharmacists team photo.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 47 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs in 2021. This mass movement, now known as The Great Resignation, is a result of several factors ranging from pandemic-related relocations, burnout and a societal shift in workplace preferences. Not surprisingly, healthcare has been one of the hardest hit sectors.

Because of The Great Resignation, hospital pharmacy departments are struggling to fill in the gaps with qualified personnel. Hospitals are competing for director of pharmacy, clinical pharmacist, informatics, and pharmacy technician candidates and stretching their budgets to meet top talents’ requests for higher salaries and additional benefits. Additionally, drug and supply costs continue to soar.

Hospital leaders sometimes avoid the idea of outsourcing their pharmacy for fear they will lose control of this important segment of their operation or alienate valued pharmacy staff. This is far from the reality of what occurs when a hospital decides to choose pharmacy management.

Often, pharmacy is the third largest cost center in a hospital’s operations, so the concern of losing control is understandable, but again the choice provides insights, clarity and most importantly cost savings. It is vital hospitals optimize their pharmacy operations amid ever-changing regulations, patient demands and rapid cost increases and the only way is to allow experts in the field to manage the pharmacy.

Outsourcing the pharmacy department can help your hospital balance out the effects of The Great Resignation.

What is Hospital Pharmacy Outsourcing?

Pharmacy outsourcing is the process of a third-party assuming the management of all aspects of the pharmacy, including staffing, regulatory, and drug management. Organizations usually choose to outsource their pharmacy if they are looking to cut costs, improve quality, and better understand how their operation is performing.

While all hospitals benefit from working with an outsourcing partner, organizations with limited bandwidth can see a greater impact because of the resources a pharmacy management company can bring to the table.

Outsourcing Your Pharmacy Operations Offers Several Advantages

Done right, a pharmacy management company offers several advantages in staff development, financial stability, operational efficiency, and patient care. Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits to outsourcing your hospital pharmacy to a third-party.

  1. Your current in-house team gets an immediate boost in manpower.

Smart hospital administrators know how valuable their pharmacy staff is and worry that a third-party vendor will fire the current team. It’s a common misconception, but a best-in-class pharmacy management firm will act as a force multiplier for your current hospital pharmacy staff.

Ideally when you outsource your pharmacy, all current staff is encouraged to remain in their positions.  This ensures a smooth transition of pharmacy management and services and increased opportunity for employee development.

Your outsourced pharmacy experts will also provide your hospital with:

  • Experienced pharmacy leadership with national resources and support
  • Training, education and team development programs
  • Experts who will keep your pharmacy up-to-date on rapidly changing regulatory and compliance issues
  • The latest clinical, operational and financial efficiencies
  1. Costs are lowered while morale improves.

Many hospital administrators assume you can’t reduce expenses by outsourcing pharmacy because the third-party vendor has to make a profit. In fact, a hospital pharmacy offers numerous areas to save money, leaving plenty of opportunity for both the hospital and their pharmacy vendor to remain profitable.

The right pharmacy management partner will help your hospital drive down costs while improving staff morale and patient HCAHPS scores by making everything more efficient, from purchasing to restocking to patient education. It’s a matter of spending your hospital pharmacy dollars more effectively, so that costs are lowered while patient care actually improves.

Depending on your hospital, pharmacy return on investment may be improved through:

  • Automation and management of:
    • medication carousels
    • automated dispensing machines
    • robotics
    • computerized physician order entry systems
    • bedside medication verification
    • smart pumps
    • meaningful use policies
  • Improved bedside discharge processes
  • Consistent antimicrobial stewardship
  • Monitoring outcomes of medication use
  • Advance planning to meet regulatory changes such as 340B, USP-800 or ICD 10

Watch this 30-minute video on 5 Ways Your Pharmacy Can Boost Your Revenue Cycle. (Video 29:41)

  1. Service, quality and patient care will improve.

Some administrators worry that patient care will take a back seat to saving money with a pharmacy management company. Others worry that physicians and nurses won’t like the changes that a pharmacy management company will implement.

However, a patient-centric focus in pharmacy operations leads to more efficient hospital operations which in turn improves patient experience. It all adds up to increased revenue and profitability.

When your pharmacy team members are engaged and fully integrated into the patient care team, they naturally seek opportunities to improve medical outcomes. Long-term, this contributes to your hospital’s success and profitability.

For example, say your hospital has an issue getting drugs from the pharmacy to the floor in a timely manner. Your pharmacy management partner should have experts on hand who can map workflows, pinpoint inefficiencies and assess staffing levels, etc. and propose a workable solution.

Learn how Roane Medical Center in Harriman, Tennessee, improved its HCAHPS scores. (Video 3:23)

  1. Your formulary will be optimized, not restricted.

It’s easy to say your hospital will save money by slashing its formulary. The problem with this simplistic approach to cost-cutting is that it doesn’t acknowledge or accommodate the realities of practicing medicine in your particular setting with your particular demographics.

A skilled third-party pharmacy management company knows a more finely tuned approach is required. Rather than just taking a hatchet to an existing formulary, it’s vital your pharmacists work together with physicians and nurses to find workable solutions to a formulary that is cost-effective while providing optimum patient care. This interdepartmental approach is more vital than ever as drug shortages expand.

  1. Pharmacy hours and staff are maintained or even expand.

Rather than reducing hours of operation to save money, your pharmacy management company should use operational efficiencies to improve patient care.

Some vendors limit pharmacy hours in a quick hit to the budget. However, this often creates a negative impact on patient care and physician/nurse satisfaction. It’s simply not practical for an acute care hospital serving patients 365/24/7 to have a part-time pharmacy operation.

Your pharmacy partner should maintain hours of operation without over-taxing staff.

An astute pharmacy management company knows that severe, unplanned cost cuts, unnecessary schedule changes and forced overtime lead to higher rates of attrition among pharmacy technicians and pharmacists. This in turn increases recruiting and training costs, while lowering morale and employee engagement. That’s why good people management is vital to the success of any hospital pharmacy operation.

  1. What makes your hospital different should be enhanced.

Cookie-cutter approaches imposed upon their hospital pharmacy often fail due to the distinctiveness of each hospital. After all, each hospital operates in a somewhat unique environment, depending on the state in which it exists, its patient demographics, its management objectives, and more.

The right pharmacy management company should be able to tailor its processes to your hospital’s unique situation so that pharmacy maintains a servant leader culture with nurses and physicians.

Your pharmacy partner should conduct quarterly business reviews that detail milestones reached, savings realized, regulatory compliance status, and nursing satisfaction progress among other success factors.

Learn more about how an outsourced pharmacy can help your hospital improve operations. (Video 3:37)

  1. GPO and wholesaler discounts remain intact.

With the right pharmacy partner, your hospital will keep its group purchasing organization (GPO) and wholesaler discounts and benefits. In addition, your pharmacy management company will likely have greater reach and additional discounts that you can access as their client.

Partnering with an experienced pharmacy management company, your hospital can achieve higher patient satisfaction scores, keep physicians and nurses happy, and retain your long-time pharmacy employees – all while improving the bottom line, reducing medication errors and delivering optimal patient care.

What’s more, your hospital will have the pharmacy-specific support systems and resources for help on a range of matters including:

  • Drug Cost Management
  • Pharmacy Workflow and Productivity 
  • Pharmacy Staff Learning Management System
  • Pharmacy Informatics and Technology Services
  • 340B Program Management 
  • Accreditation Readiness and Regulatory Compliance

When outsourcing your pharmacy, it is important to find the right partner who’s capable of meeting your hospital’s unique needs. Our pharmacy management solution allows for seamless integration with your existing team, so you can stay focused on sustainable cost control and growth.

So, where do you start? Schedule a complimentary pharmacy performance assessment with our team of industry-leading experts. The CompleteRx assessment team will evaluate your pharmacy’s data and physical operation to uncover a clear picture of your pharmacy’s issues and opportunities.