Escape Crisis Mode and Put Time Aside to Plan

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Three tips for busy hospital pharmacy leaders

By Rick Burnett, COO, CompleteRx

Work in the health care industry is fast-paced and demanding and, at times, may seem like a near-impossible balancing act as pharmacy executives try to manage day-to-day operations, while also attempting to juggle changing accreditation requirements, predict potential drug price hikes, and stay up to date with the latest governmental regulations and medical technologies.

With so many pressing tasks to address, it is understandable that executives may find their day overrun by one critical issue after another, leaving them feeling like little has been achieved by the end of it. There will, of course, always be circumstances that require immediate attention and action, but pharmacy leaders face a true problem if these crises end up composing the entire day… every day.

It’s vitally important, then, for executives to stop, look up and assess whether the pharmacy department is traveling in the right direction by evaluating whether primary business objectives and goals are being met. While it can be difficult to escape these recurring pressures and responsibilities, executives must carve out time to work on strategic activities that contribute directly to achieving the long-term goals of the pharmacy in alignment with the broader objectives of the hospital.



To help even the busiest health care professional escape crisis mode and prioritize time to plan and find efficiencies, here are three tips to consider in the new year:

  1. Stop. Look up. Plan. – Instead of moving through the day at a mile a minute, focusing only on the most urgent concerns right in front of you, pause and redirect attention to look at the big picture. Each year, the pharmacy leadership team should allocate time to prepare a strategic plan. At least quarterly, be sure to dedicate uninterrupted time to review the pharmacy’s strategic plan and consider whether the short- and long-term goals still align with the overall business objectives of the organization. Allocate the necessary resources to areas that will yield the highest return on investment, for example, allocating pharmacist time to a robust antibiotic stewardship program will likely yield a significant return on investment not only in decreasing drug costs, but also potentially reducing patient length of stay. To keep the pharmacy on a path of consistent success, it is important to constantly communicate, measure and benchmark progress. Equally important is to make sure department objectives and employee performance goals are aligned. This is difficult to do if your focus is always on the most pressing issue.
  2. Get to the root cause of an issue. – Instead of simply putting out a fire and running off to find another, take stock of what caused the issue in the first place. Taking a closer look might shine a light on a process that isn’t working, a lack of resourcing, or an unmet need where new technology or equipment could have helped, for example: a dispensing error may reveal a broader problem that requires a technology upgrade or a mix up with patient records might signal the need to modernize how files are managed. The “that’s the way we have always done it” explanation should be a red flag for any manager to investigate. The reason behind why something is done a certain way should be because it is the best way to do it, not because it’s the way it has been executed for longest time. Whether “best” translates to most efficient, most cost-effective, or that which delivers the best patient outcome, it could help improve the overall performance of the hospital if small changes and efficiencies, such as these, are found and acted upon.
  3. Don’t operate in a silo. – New technologies, clinical processes and medical devices are being developed continually, and it is impossible for one person to know it all. When developing a strategic plan, seek input from your front-line staff and other department leaders. Equally important, but often overlooked, rely on your professional network to learn about new or different approaches working well in other pharmacies that could be applied. Seek an outsider’s perspective to help you identify operational efficiencies or improvements that those working day to day might not have noticed. Adding a fresh set of eyes to a situation could bring alternative solutions that not only save time and money, but also can improve the overall performance of the pharmacy for staff and patients.

Rick Burnett, PharmD, FACHE, is the COO of CompleteRx and leads the day-to-day operations delivery for customers. With more than 25 years of experience in hospital pharmacy management, Rick has worked in a variety of sets from small rural hospitals to multisystem academic settings and is currently a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

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