Pharmacist risk managers could be worth their weight in gold

February 1, 2009

A pharmacy risk manager can help reduce medication errors, improve patient safety, manage quality improvement, monitor claims and expenses, and improve healthcare delivery.

Key Points

A trained, experienced pharmacist risk manager has real value. It is now possible for a pharmacist to receive that kind of risk-management training. Currently, a handful of pharmacy schools offer advanced training in risk management.

Within its Master of Science in Pharmacy program, the University of Florida is offering a part-time online major in patient safety and risk management. This master's level degree program is particularly designed to provide students with the knowledge, skills, and ability to develop comprehensive clinical risk-management and patient-safety programs. According to David Brushwood, program director for the University of Florida's Masters of Science in Pharmacy curriculum, the university was responding to student demand for a major in patient safety. "This major provides students with the opportunity to enter the growing field of healthcare risk management," he said.

As state boards of pharmacy realize that merely having a quality-assurance plan is not enough, the value of a trained risk manager will become more apparent. Regulators, pharmacy and hospital executives, insurance companies, and patients will demand that every pharmacy have a system that not only can reduce the number of medication errors, but actually reduces claims and embarrassing situations. Quality judged by outcomes will become the norm. This will force the profession to recognize the need for specialists trained to design, implement, and continuously improve healthcare delivery.

In the last several years, profit margins have decreased while demands for services have increased. Prescription volume has multiplied; pharmacists and pharmacy technicians have been filling more prescriptions while the number of available staff has remained constant. It is not surprising medication errors and pharmacy malpractice claims have increased, along with demands for quality solutions.

The University of Florida's timing is excellent, and it is not alone in its efforts to train specialists in risk management and patient safety. Temple University School of Pharmacy has a certificate program for pharmacists and a masters program that trains experts, primarily for the pharmaceutical industry. St. Johns University and Purdue University also have programs that emphasize quality assurance in the pharmacy industry.

I have to admit some prejudice, as I teach online courses in the University of Florida Masters in Science programs, including in its patient-safety and risk-management major. All these universities, however, are top pharmacy schools and pharmacists would do well to look at all of them. Anyone interested in more information should visit the schools' websites.

For the University of Florida Masters program, information can be found at http://pharmreg.dce.ufl.edu/, or pharmacists can contact the program director, Professor David Brushwood, at brushwood@cop.ufl.edu
They may also contact me at ken@kenbakerconsulting.com
I will try to be objective.

Ken Baker is a pharmacist and an attorney with the Arizona law firm of Renaud Cook Drury Mesaros, PA. Contact him at ken@kenbakerconsulting.com