In early January, the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference was held in San Francisco and more than 20 major health care organizations were present: Cleveland Clinic, Boston-based Partners Healthcare, Geisinger Health System, Northwestern Medicine of Chicago, Advocate Healthcare, to name a few. 

The news coming out of this conference confirmed that change is inevitable to survive in the new health care environment, but now execution of strategies would be the new expectation for 2016. Leaders from these respected organizations identified the top 10 trends:

  1. Changing payment structures; a shift from fee-for-service to value-based payment based on quality outcomes
  2. Prepare for population health and understand associated costs and margins; expect to manage large populations with the aging baby boomer population
  3. Effectively manage unit cost and reduce the cost of care delivery
  4. Look for a transition from hospitals and health care systems to health and health care companies
  5. Expect a major shift of inpatient services to outpatient with volume and revenue to follow
  6. Personalized medicine with care “your way”
  7. Scale up to thrive and survive
  8. Develop partnerships
  9. Consumerism is the new directive; consumers will drive volume and it must be directed based upon their desires
  10. Strong brands are becoming more prominent

The trends and the message of not just the need to change, but executing change reminded me of the book, Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, MD. This short story is a cautionary tale for managing change told through the actions of four mice named Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw.

Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw lived in a maze and their job each day was to search for cheese. They all quickly found a huge pile of cheese and rather than look for new cheese, they just kept going to the same place for cheese. However, Sniff and Scurry began to notice the cheese supply was shrinking so they embraced the changing environment and immediately set off sniffing and scurrying to search for new cheese. Hem and Haw also noticed the shrinking supply, but were reluctant to explore new options. Finally, Haw made the decision to change his cheese strategy and becomes the hero of the story by leaving insightful notes about what he learns on his change journey.

Progressive health care CEOs and CFOs know the pharmacy environment is changing and they no longer view pharmacy as just a cost center. They are “moving with the cheese” by seeing it as a new revenue source for specialty, infusion and retail pharmacy services. They also recognize that the pharmacy staff can help improve medication safety and adherence while optimizing value-based reimbursement and avoidance of readmission penalties.

Pharmacy leaders should embrace this change in C-suite perspectives. Here are ways I believe managers of outpatient pharmacy services can demonstrate the value of their department:

  • Leverage your supply chain advantages and pharmacy expertise to help your organization with employee prescription benefit design to control drug costs
  • Lower costs in your retail pharmacy using automation and strategic business designs that include specialty pharmacy services
  • Generate new revenue with effective home infusion and oncolytic outpatient services
  • Get involved now to drive change for large high-risk populations using your expertise with diabetes medication therapy management
  • Own discharge medication reconciliation to improve outcomes and prevent unnecessary readmissions and financial penalties
  • Expand the roles of pharmacy technicians to implement prior authorization and patient assistance strategies
  • Improve ambulatory management of high-risk medications such as anticoagulants and high-cost specialty medications to assure good outcomes and reduce costs and waste

Our industry is at the point where change isn’t an option it’s a mandate. As pharmacy leaders, we must prepare ourselves and our staffs by applying the wisdom shared by Haw. Adapt to change quickly: The quicker you let go of the old cheese, the sooner you get to taste the new cheese. Monitor change: Smell the cheese often and know when it is getting old. Enjoy change: Savor the adventure and enjoy the taste of the new cheese!

About the author. Thomas uses her more than 30 years of health care industry experience to help member health care organizations identify opportunities for improving operational and clinical efficiencies, medication safety and financial outcomes through best-demonstrated medication use, and transitions of care strategies. Her extensive expertise also includes specialty pharmacy and infusion services, acute and ambulatory care integration, and hospital, home care, hospice and retail operations. 

Published: March 7, 2016