Pharmacist surplus could be a good thing-eventually

June 28, 2016

David H. Kreling, PhD, a professor at the School of Pharmacy, University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the principal investigator for the ADI project for the Midwest Pharmacy Workforce Consortium, thinks a surplus of pharmacists could spur positive change.

In “Signs of a weakening pharmacist job market” (Drug Topics, June 2016), Daniel L. Brown, PharmD, a professor and director of faculty development at Palm Beach Atlantic University's Lloyd L. Gregory School of Pharmacy in West Palm Beach, Fla., said the flood of new pharmacy schools is creating an oversupply of pharmacists. He urged pharmacy associations to speak out against the creation of any new schools or the expansion or existing ones-and to focus as much attention on eliminating below-cost reimbursements as provider status.

David H. Kreling, PhD, is a professor at the School of Pharmacy, University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the principal investigator for the ADI project for the Midwest Pharmacy Workforce Consortium. He offered the below response to Dr. Brown’s Q&A.

Dr. Brown raises excellent points about historic trends in pharmacist supply and demand and possible consequences from these trends. One indicator that has been relied on for current perspective on the pharmacist labor market is the Aggregate Demand Index (ADI).

The ADI reports ratings of panelists about their perception of the supply and demand in the market for pharmacists. A downward trend in the ADI over the past decade has resulted in a more balanced current view of demand and supply for pharmacists.

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David H. Kreling, PhD

Given the present roles and labor deployment of pharmacists, the recent and upcoming trends of the number of pharmacy school graduates relative to the number of pharmacist retirements would suggest that the potential for an eminent and likely growing pharmacist surplus exists, consistent with Prof. Brown’s opinions.  If there is an impending surplus of pharmacists, this is a situation much different than the current pharmacist workforce has experienced.

Pharmacist surplus could spur improved practice models

A surplus may result in pharmacists developing new ideas, taking risks, and creating change, especially if opportunity exists. If there is latent demand for pharmacists that can be converted to actual demand in the marketplace, excess supply may be necessary and actually good for the profession. It is intriguing to consider the possibility of change that may be stimulated by a surplus of pharmacists, in spite of the challenge and possible pain that may accompany the transition.

 

Prof. Brown notes that efforts should be made to create new and better jobs. Consistent with this, there is a need to better identify and understand key indicators that may help measure and predict need for pharmacists in new patient care roles.

Current and historic models of need for pharmacists have been based on a production function centered on pharmacists dispensing medications. New models of need for pharmacists may be derived from experiences in healthcare systems that are deploying pharmacists in patient care roles, determining, for example, population-to-pharmacist demand ratios that result from such roles.

Other examples of non-dispensing activities by pharmacists also need to be quantified and developed into metrics for estimating need for pharmacists. Predictions of pharmacist workforce requirements based on new pharmacist production function models can be incorporated into supply and demand projections. As pharmacist roles develop, enhanced indicators that would capture market demand for specific pharmacists could be devised as adjustments to how the ADI now reflects general perceptions of the demand and supply for pharmacists.

William R. Doucette, Caroline A. Gaither, David A. Mott, and Jon C. Schommer of the Midwest Pharmacy Workforce Consortium contributed to this article.