Controlling Pharmacy Costs: Innovation and Good Hospital Management

Hospital and healthcare workers working together to analyze data.

Sustainable cost control is the new number one concern for hospital CEOs, according to the latest Annual Health Care CEO Survey by the Advisory Board.

The Advisory Board surveyed 146 c-suite hospital executives between December 2017 and March 2018 and found that 62 percent were extremely interested in sustainable cost control. Since pharmacy plays a large role in most hospital budgets, pharmacy leaders should be open to change and innovation in their operations.

When it comes to controlling pharmacy costs in a hospital, nothing beats your basic blocking and tackling, says Rick Burnett, chief operating officer at CompleteRx. That means making smart purchasing decisions, reducing waste, optimizing staffing levels and more.

Pharmacy Cost Reduction Programs

Once basic pharmacy operations have been optimized, Burnett recommends putting these additional programs in place to further reduce costs.

  • Automated carousels: Installing automated carousels can help reduce labor and inventory costs when properly implemented. Read more about one Massachusetts health system’s installation of medication carousels.
  • Antibiotic stewardship programs: Promoting evidence-based use of antibiotics has been proven to help curb antibiotic spend. Antibiotic stewardship programs can also help reduce length of stay by reducing antibiotic resistance patterns and decreasing the incidence of C diff infections. These benefits of antibiotic stewardship programs are not reflected in a pharmacy’s financials but will help improve the hospital’s overall finances.
  • Patient medication counseling: Hospitals that have implemented a medication counseling program led by pharmacists find that the counseling can contribute to lower readmission rates and improve HCAHPS scores. While there can be logistical challenges related to implementing a pharmacy lead patient education program, the improved patient satisfaction scores and higher reimbursement rates mean such programs are becoming the norm.
  • Standardized medication guidelines: Pharmacy leaders can drive significant cost savings by working with medical staff to hard wire evidence based medication order sets into the hospital’s electronic ordering system. This practice helps encourage the use of more effective, less expensive drugs while improving the efficiency of the order approval process.

Looking to the future, Burnett expects more legislatures will change laws so that pharmacists are recognized with provider status. This will allow hospitals to be reimbursed for a pharmacist’s time spent on patient care activities such as medication therapy management reviews and patient counseling. While it’s anticipated that pharmacists will be reimbursed at lower rates than others with providers status such as physicians, it will still help hospitals improve their margins.

Read more about the Advisory Board survey here.

Be sure to follow CompleteRx on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook for the latest pharmacy news, updates and tips to help your hospital, health system or outpatient pharmacy run smoothly.


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