Although lowering prices is key to addressing the affordability and accessibility of needed medications, hospital and health system leaders can use complementary strategies to mitigate cost and access issues and potentially address the problems before they worsen.
A few strategies include:
Work together. Every hospital should have a high-functioning pharmacy and therapeutics committee that includes medical staff and pharmacists to determine solutions for addressing affordability and accessibility, says Carter Dredge, chief transformation officer for SSM Health. A committee can develop integrated solutions that encompass the knowledge and experience of those who purchase medication and those who prescribe it, he says.
Better manage inventory. Inefficient inventory management practices can mean that medications are not procured early enough in the care process or effectively tracked within the inventory department, says Dan Liljenquist, senior vice president and chief strategy officer for Intermountain Healthcare. These practices are reactive and can lead to panic in attempts to procure needed medication. Instead, pharmacy leaders should be more proactive. “Make sure that you are actively managing your inventory as you go along,” Liljenquist says. “Better planning, better structuring can help.”
Employ different perspectives. Hospitals and health systems need a well-rounded perspective on how and when medications are administered to ensure the right medication is delivered at the right time. At SSM Health, representatives of its hospitals, health plan, medical groups, and pharmacy benefits management company work together to address proper medication administration. “We look at all of those components to make sure we have the right perspective of how to deliver care using the right types of drugs in the right types of scenarios,” Dredge says. “It creates a very rich way of analyzing a product from multiple perspectives.”
Improve care management. Providers should be involved in patient care at earlier stages, says Lou Fierens, executive vice president, administrative services, for Trinity Health. The health system’s strategic plan focuses in part on improving patient experiences and on managing the health of patient populations to keep people out of the hospital in the first place. Ensuring patient compliance with physicians’ recommendations is an important part of achieving positive outcomes, he says. “There’s only so much we can do to impact the availability and market pricing of branded medications,” he says. “So, at this point, we are doing what we can to ensure essential-generic availability and affordability from our end of the better-care equation.”
Karen Wagner is a freelance healthcare writer based in Forest Lake, Ill.
Interviewed for this article: Ben Carter, CFO, Trinity Health, Livonia, Mich.; Carter Dredge, chief transformation officer, SSM Health, St. Louis; Lou Fierens executive vice president, administrative services, Trinity Health, Livonia, Mich.; Dan Liljenquist, senior vice president and chief strategy officer, Intermountain Healthcare, Salt Lake City.
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