ASHP: Tech programs should meet standards

January 8, 2007

For too long now, many technicians have been trained in programs that just don't meet quality standards. Pharmacists know about this, but many people outside the profession don't. At its midyear meeting in Anaheim, Calif., Henri Manasse, executive VP and CEO of ASHP, made known his intention to expose this "dirty little secret" to state legislators and the public.

For too long now, many technicians have been trained in programs that just don't meet quality standards. Pharmacists know about this, but many people outside the profession don't. At its midyear meeting in Anaheim, Calif., Henri Manasse, executive VP and CEO of ASHP, made known his intention to expose this "dirty little secret" to state legislators and the public.

Jill Martin, immediate past president of ASHP, said the organization recently accredited a tech training program from Walgreens to meet requirements from the state of South Carolina. Other chains have also expressed an interest in getting their offerings approved by ASHP. She added that South Carolina could be the start of a new trend among states calling for the accreditation of tech training programs.

Also at the briefing, ASHP president Cynthia Brennan, Pharm.D., said that among the important issues that the association is addressing is the proper application of technology. "Technology is creating a new subspecialty in pharmacy," said Brennan, who announced the creation of a Section of Pharmacy Informatics at ASHP that will be headed up by Karl Gumpper, former director of pharmacy at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. "Pharmacists who are evolving into these jobs now have a place where they can exchange ideas with each other to make the best use of technology," Brennan said.

Martin discussed the issue of making sure that health-system pharmacists have the adequate resources they need to do their job. She shared the results of an ASHP survey, revealing that the average vacancy rate for pharmacists in 2006 was around 7%, the second consecutive increase after a three-year decline. "Clearly, we are still having a shortage overall in regard to the number of pharmacists we need," she said, adding that 93% of respondents to the survey perceived a shortage of qualified, available, and experienced frontline candidates while 87% cited a shortage of pharmacy managers.

"This is a concern as we try to move the profession forward," stated Martin. She noted that ASHP is developing a long-range vision for the pharmacy workforce in hospitals and health systems. Part of that vision is to take a look at the future role of the chief pharmacy officer, having that person "forge ahead and provide the leadership needed in order to improve the systems."

Manasse tackled the question of the expanding role for pharmacists in ambulatory clinics. "Pharmacists are very critical in the ambulatory care area, and we have many places where pharmacists practice," he said. He added that ASHP is engaged in intensive discussion with the Board of Pharmaceutical Specialties about whether to grant ambulatory care a specialty credential.

On the subject of the Medicare Part D drug benefit, Manasse noted that the debate over whether or not the government should negotiate drug pricing with manufacturers will be a big issue for the incoming Democratic Congress. He added that ASHP supported the drug benefit because the organization felt it was important for this country to have such an offering. "We'll spend the next decades fine-tuning the drug benefit. But the bigger question is how to change the reimbursement model from one derived from margins to being reimbursed in cognitive services. This is our top question: How will we get paid?"

In other news, ASHP announced a partnership with Lexi-Comp Inc., which will provide clinicians with an on-line drug information resource. Lexi-Comp ONLINE, as well as three additional electronic platforms, will soon include theAHFS Drug Information and AHFS DI Essentials databases.

ASHP has also joined forces with Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, to launch the Consumer Drug Reference, which features more than 12,000 medicines for consumers including a feature to help readers to use their medications safely. ASHP also unveiled plans to launch a Web-based resource center designed to offer practical information to assist health-system pharmacists improve the quality of medication use within their facilities. Among the resource center features: a bridge that links national quality indicators with national organizations, legislation, and clinical practice guidelines.

At the midyear meeting, which drew 18,000 attendees, ASHP honored various pharmacists and other medical professionals for their achievements. David Bates, M.D., chief of the division of general medicine at Brigham & Women's Hospital, Boston, was awarded ASHP's Board of Directors Award of Honor for his leadership in and commitment to improving the quality of healthcare services. David Angaran, M.S., clinical professor of pharmacy at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy, was the recipient of the Award for Distinguished Leadership in Health-System Pharmacy Practice. Marvin Shepherd, Ph.D., was recognized for his role in protecting the United States from counterfeit and diverted medications and received the Award of Excellence. Michael Heath, M.B.A., former chief pharmacist for the U.S. Army, was named honorary member of ASHP for his contributions to pharmacy practice.

Recipients of ASHP's Best Practices Award included pharmacists from: Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center in Chula Vista, Calif.; Mercy Hospital, Miami; Advocate Christ Medical Center, Oak Lawn, Ill.; Saint Joseph HealthCare, Lexington, Ky.; The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore; and WellSpan Health, York, Pa.