Panel Highlights Health-System Specialty Pharmacy Edge

LAS VEGAS—Specialty pharmacies that are part of a health system or hospital have several advantages over independent pharmacies, a panel of experts told attendees at Asembia’s 2018 Specialty Pharmacy Summit.

“Being within a health system and having access to electronic health records (EHRs) means we can provide care for patients in an efficient and coordinated way, and as close as possible to the continuum of care,” said Sangeeta Goel, PharmD, the manager of the University of Michigan Health System’s specialty pharmacy, in Ann Arbor. Having access to hospital resources also means pharmacists can help patients receive appropriate clinical care, provide clinical monitoring as required for specific medications, and work closely with the health care team, she said.

At Lehigh Valley Health Network, in Allentown, Pa., where Sean Maydick, PharmD, is the specialty pharmacy supervisor for health spectrum pharmacy services, specialty pharmacists use the EHR as much as practitioners and nurses do, making it “very much a two-way street in terms of coordinating care.

“If there’s an issue with a patient, an adverse effect due to a drug, or problems obtaining the medication, we can coordinate how to address those issues with the provider’s office,” he said. “It speeds up the process of care and of getting the patient on appropriate treatment.”

According to Dr. Goel, having access to the health system’s EHR also means specialty pharmacy staff can facilitate prior authorizations quickly.
“Because we do everything internally, we can usually get the drug to the patient within a day or two,” she said.

Samaneh Wilkinson, PharmD, the director of pharmacy and ambulatory care services at the University of Kansas Health System in Lawrence, told the audience that health-system specialty pharmacies also tend to be less competitive than independent specialty pharmacies, which allows for “open sharing” between health systems.

“Something we’ve been able to do is learn from others in terms of how they’ve leveraged information technology to improve their processes,” Dr. Wilkinson said. “It’s been really helpful to talk to other health systems to share best practices.”

Another benefit of being part of a health system and having access to the EHR is being able to correlate medication use and adherence to outcomes measures, such as sustained virologic response for patients with hepatitis C virus, Dr. Goel said.

Additionally, she said, given the number of stakeholders vying to communicate with a given patient and the challenge of connecting with them, health-system specialty pharmacies can leverage being part of a single entity that the patient is already familiar with and trusts. “When the patient gets a call from anybody in our health system, it’s from the University of Michigan; it doesn’t matter to them what department they’re getting the call from,” Dr. Goel said.

If the pharmacy cannot reach a patient, they refer that patient to the clinic nurse, who can then speak with them at their next clinical encounter, Dr. Maydick said, adding, “Being in the same building makes it easier to coordinate care from many perspectives.”