Top 4 Trends for Hospital Pharmacists in 2018

ASHP predicts leadership changes, enlarged roles for pharmacists, and financial pressures.

Pharmacy leaders leaving their positions earlier than expected and pharmacists’ increasing role in combatting the opioid crisis are two of the top issues that will affect hospital pharmacists over the next five years, according to ASHP.

In its recent report, “ASHP Foundation Pharmacy Forecast 2018: Strategic Planning Advice for Pharmacy Departments in Hospitals and Health Systems,” published in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, ASHP detailed many factors that will influence pharmacists and pharmacy leaders from 2018 through 2023. The report is based on responses from a forecast panel of leaders including pharmacists, academics, pharmacy executives, and others.

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The top trends will include:

Leadership changes

Because of the increasing stress and complexity of their roles, 24% of seasoned health-system pharmacy leaders will leave their positions earlier than expected, the forecast panelists (FP) predicted. “Now, you get hit with change at a pace that is just unheard of, compared to the past,” said Lee Vermeulen, BSPharm, MS, FCCP, editor of the forecast and Professor of Medicine and Pharmacy at the University of Kentucky.

Stressors include dealing with the opioid crisis, Affordable Care Act reform legislation, the rising cost of care, and technology that is advancing faster than in the past, Vermeulen said.

Enlarging Roles


Pharmacists will play an increasing role in helping combat the opioid crisis, including developing opioid stewardship programs at their hospitals.

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“Think of the value that pharmacists have been able to bring to anticoagulation and antimicrobial stewardship. They oversee the care delivered and develop practice guidelines around the process of care,” Vermeulen said.

“It’s time to take control of the opioid crisis in the same way. Pharmacists can take the stewardship model and apply it to this very important public health crisis.”

Pharmacists will need to play a bigger role because of “legislative actions that limit prescribing volumes and new regulations that require extensive data collection, monitoring, and analysis,” the report said. “Given these new standards and increased scrutiny from the DEA, a majority of FPs believe that it is likely that those requirements will seriously compromise patient care.”


Revised Expectations 

At least 25% of health systems will revise the requirements and expectations of pharmacy practice leaders to better accommodate the work–life balance expectations of younger pharmacists who want to take on leadership roles. Younger pharmacy leaders have different expectations of their jobs - including how long they plan to stay with their current organizations, their work loads, and their work/ life balance - than do older pharmacy leaders, Vermeulen explained.

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“Increasingly, younger leaders don’t stay at an organization for more than a few years,” Vermeulen said.

Financial Pressures 

Health systems will face increasing financial pressure that will affect pharmacy departments. Sixty-one percent of FPs believe that the annual number of hospital and health-system bankruptcies will increase by at least 25% over the next five years “The retraction of coverage [after ACA reform legislation] means that hospitals are going to go back to being the safety net of care for their communities - without financial help,” Vermeulen said.

In addition, a majority of respondents predicted at least a 25% reduction in investment in new programs.