Patient medications are one of the few common threads that cross the health care continuum. As a result, health system pharmacy leaders have increasing strategic responsibility and accountability for clinical and financial outcomes. Pharmacy leaders are looking for strategies and tactics that will enable them to better manage three trends in the health system pharmacy value equation:

• Increasing drug costs
• Expansion into ambulatory services
• The shift toward value-based care

To address these trends, pharmacy leaders must go beyond basic contracting and seek new and unique approaches to efficiently manage the significant clinical effort often necessary to move to lower cost or more cost effective drugs. They also need to develop and implement new contracting strategies required for expansion into outpatient services and managing patient populations.
“Vizient members have been looking for new and innovative ways to address the effects of market changes on health system pharmacies, and for many the solution of choice has been participation in a Vizient pharmacy network,” said Allison Tauman, director, Pharmacy Networks.

“We currently have 12 pharmacy networks representing 650 member hospitals. In 2015, the networks delivered $65 million in savings which translates into more than $100,000 per member hospital on average. Moving forward, we envision adding additional networks to meet member demand and delivering more than $100 million in annual savings in the next three years.”

According to Tauman, while the catalyst for the development of pharmacy networks was to focus on sourcing and custom contracting, 50 percent of the current work is clinical in nature and not focused on sourcing. The dedicated Vizient network pharmacists lead efforts to move pharmacy network members to more cost effective drugs, or more   appropriate use which may include eliminating them altogether. To do this we work closely with physicians,     pharmacists and nurses in the hospital to arrive at a solution that maximizes efficacy while keeping costs in mind.

“The network pharmacists work on savings opportunities that complement national sourcing, such as utilization and more appropriate dosing. The member pharmacists, representing the hospitals, serve as liaisons back to their organization with ideas and strategies to optimize their pharmacy spend. They also help identify opportunities to increase commitment levels to drive additional value when appropriate. A network’s ability to be nimble and identify therapeutic equivalence within a drug class before requesting a bid is often more influential with suppliers than higher volume,” said Tauman.

Flu vaccines provide an example of how aggregated volume and commitment can lower costs for network participants. “For the most recent flu season, we had nearly 5 million flu vaccine doses that we were willing to commit to a supplier. The result was a huge savings for pharmacy network members.”

“Biosimilars is another project we are focusing on that has the potential to make a huge impact. We are working with the pharmacy networks and the larger Vizient team as a whole to lay the groundwork for members to significantly increase their uptake of the biosimilars that have been approved as well as new ones as they become available. The savings that would result would be a huge win-win for the health systems and patients,” said Tauman. 

“In instances like this, we are functioning as a national network and with an efficient process to ensure this works across the country. This is a value proposition for even our larger health systems because they can’t get this on their own,” added Tauman.

The value proposition for members participating in a pharmacy network includes many angles. Currently, the program is assisting with:

• Cost reduction and avoidance
• Drug shortage mitigation
• Pharmacy budget management
• Reimbursement improvement

Looking ahead, the strategy for Vizient’s pharmacy networks is to bring alignment to the legacy approaches of VHA, University HealthSystem Consortium (UHC), Novation, and MedAssets SCM and continue to evolve this differentiator for our Vizient pharmacy offering. “Over the last five years Vizient pharmacy networks have experienced tremendous growth and provided significant value to participating members. We are working to ensure we are positioned to continue this growth and value trajectory.”

For more information about Vizient’s pharmacy networks contact

Published: May 12, 2016