The pharmacy department is an integral part of the hospital, and is one of the most complicated functions in terms of safety, finances, and the vast amount of regulatory requirements that must be followed. We recently spoke to a number of our top pharmacy customers about the impact of the political, economic, and regulatory changes introduced in 2017, and the challenges that face them going into the new year. As was no surprise, our straight-shooting respondents told us what was up – in no uncertain terms. Priorities and goals for this coming year are similar to what we’ve seen and heard in years past, the list topped by reducing medication errors, complying with regulatory requirements, and reducing costs. Although not listed in top priorities, we’ve also heard from many of our best customers there are goals to increase their clinical services and make more of a front-line impact on the safety and satisfaction of their patients.
In reality, a major focus for 2018 is addressing the many challenges introduced over the last couple of years. On the majority of pharmacy professionals’ priority lists are the repercussions of the changes to USP <797> and the overhaul of USP <800>. The significant operational and infrastructure changes required to be in compliance with handling hazardous drugs is causing significant anxiety for our customers. The timeline for compliance has recently been pushed back until December 1, 2019, and that will greatly help in alleviating some of the major heartburn surrounding the requirements. But, pharmacy professionals are still stressed.
“[they] keep changing the requirements and seem to treat hospitals as though they are manufacturers.”
Many professionals cited uncertainty around what was actually required, one Pharmacy Director stating “[they] keep changing the requirements and seem to treat hospitals as though they are manufacturers.” Achieving compliance with the new regulations will require collaboration across the entire hospital, including soliciting support from other departments, such as nursing, as well as many physical and structural changes, which always translates into significant time and money.
Speaking of money, budgets continue to weigh heavy on the minds of our friends in the pharmacy. Potential changes to the 340B program brought about many concerns of lost revenue and the continuous rise of drug costs resulting in a tighter and tighter bottom line. Since the pharmacy budget is such an important component of the hospital’s overall financial outcome, anything that impacts the pharmacy budget is an instant red flag for the administration team.
Operationally, the majority of concerns centered around being able to track and trace medications down to lot numbers— from the manufacturer to the patient—as required by the Drug Supply Chain Security Act. This could potentially be difficult for pharmacies with antiquated or insufficient record-keeping systems as it may impact their ability to produce the required documentation in the necessary timeline. Other operational challenges on the minds of pharmacy professionals continue to include preventing drug diversion, as well as tracking shelf life changes for unit dose liquids.
According to our customers, 2017 was a challenging year and the challenges will continue into 2018 and the immediate future. The pharmacy is such an integral piece of providing care to those who are sick or injured and it’s always interesting to hear that the providing care part isn’t a cited concern. It’s the regulatory and bureaucratic nightmares that go along with running a hospital pharmacy that keep directors and administrators up at night.
At PDC Healthcare, we love to hear about what’s going on in your facility – your challenges and struggles and your triumphs. Give us a call at 800.435.4242 or contact us online and let us know what you’re working on. We may be able to help!