Proposing The Center for Integrated Pharmacy Education

May 2017 - Vol.14 No. 5 - Page #34

This article follows up on an article published in the November 2016 issue of Pharmacy Purchasing & Products, Proposing a New Pharmacy Position: The Pharmacy Technologist. While the November article discussed the value of developing a new pharmacy position that would focus on pharmacy operations, this article provides a vision for the creation of The Center for Integrated Pharmacy Education, an educational establishment that would support efforts to provide comprehensive pharmacy education.


It was not long ago that obtaining a pharmacy degree was the primary end point of formal education for pharmacists, while pharmacy technician education consisted primarily of on-the-job training. However, over the past several decades, health care has adopted diversified delivery models and increased in complexity given the advent of advanced therapeutic options, new technologies, and reimbursement changes. Concurrently, pharmacy education for both pharmacists and technicians has become more diversified.

There is now a profusion of pharmacy education offerings for pharmacists and technicians to choose from to enhance their knowledge and skills. How are the various types of pharmacy education offerings integrated into the societal health care framework, health care systems, health care facilities, and the professional aspirations of individual pharmacy caregivers? Which entity will assess, integrate, and systematize the various pharmacy education offerings? There is a distinct need for one entity to take ownership of delineating these pharmacy offerings by serving as a warehouse supporting, assessing, and conducting research on pharmacy education offerings. The development of The Center for Integrated Pharmacy Education would serve this purpose.

Current Pharmacy Education Offerings

Pharmacy technician training programs include those offered by nonprofit and for-profit educational institutions, as well as individual health care organizations. Graduates of these training programs may take certification exams to become certified pharmacy technicians (CPhTs). As advanced pharmacy technician certification opportunities evolve (eg, sterile compounding), additional education programs and offerings may be established.

Likewise, pharmacists have experienced an explosion in pharmacy education offerings. Numerous health-system and community-pharmacy residencies, specialized pharmacy residencies, pharmacy fellowships, certifications, and board specialty recognitions are available to pharmacists. Opportunities for pharmacist specialty education are extensive in the areas of community pharmacy, critical care, cardiology, administration, medication safety, informatics, neurology, nephrology, oncology, pharmacotherapy, pediatrics, psychiatry, ambulatory care, nuclear pharmacy, pharmaceutical industry, regulatory affairs, pharmacokinetics, pharmacogenomics, infectious disease, and other specialty areas. Some specialization endeavors may require certification and re-certification after a period of time.

The types of pharmacy education providers are extensive, spanning schools/colleges of pharmacy, for-profit/not-for-profit technical schools, pharmacy professional associations, health care sites, and for-profit/not-for-profit educational corporate entities. Collaboration among these providers is limited at best.

The Relevance of Additional Pharmacy Education

Why Seek Supplemental Pharmacy Education?

Individuals seek additional pharmacy education to gain knowledge in a specific pharmacy area, to develop an area of pharmacy practice specialization, to meet unique clinical patient care needs or operational needs at their practice site, to increase their salary and earning potential, to move up a career ladder, and/or to meet regulatory requirements for employment.

Why Provide Supplemental Pharmacy Education?

Entities that provide pharmacy education offerings may be inspired by a desire to:

  • Meet specific patient needs
  • Meet pharmacy operational needs
  • Meet pharmacy education regulatory requirements
  • Generate revenue from individuals selecting the education programs, from individuals paying re-certification fees, and from individuals paying for continuing education classes to retain their certifications/specialty designation
  • Fulfill staffing hours at a reduced pay scale through student staffing (eg, pharmacy resident versus staff pharmacist pay scales)

Why Hire Individuals Who Have Completed Supplemental Education?

An institution may seek to hire individuals who have completed pharmacy education offerings to meet an organizational need with a staff member who has a level of expertise that would not otherwise be widely available among individuals graduating from pharmacy schools (eg, informatics specialist, infectious disease specialist for an antibiotic stewardship program, pharmacy manager/administrator). Organizations may be motivated to hire pharmacy technicians who have completed formal pharmacy technician training programs to ensure consistency of work performed, to meet knowledge/skill set requirements, and/or to meet specific state regulatory requirements pertaining to the hiring of CPhTs.

Integrating Pharmacy Education Across the Health Care Continuum

Given the numerous pharmacy education offerings available now and in the future, as well as the corresponding motivators for these supplemental pharmacy education offerings, the following general questions must be asked:

1. How are these educational offerings integrated with:

  • Societal patient care needs
  • Individual patient needs
  • The needs of an individual seeking education to meet a personal goal

2. How are individuals completing these education offerings integrated within:

  • A health care system
  • A singular health care site

Specific questions to consider regarding integrating the various types of pharmacy education offerings into the pharmacy enterprise and overall pharmacy profession include:

1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of education offerings that have similar areas of focus (eg, specialized cardiology pharmacy residency versus cardiology pharmacy fellowship)?

2. What is the ROI to individuals embarking upon the various types of pharmacy education offerings?

3. What is the ROI by an organization that decides to hire an individual who has completed a specific type of pharmacy education?

4. What criteria does a health care organization use to determine if it should hire an individual who has selected additional general training in a specialized area, versus hiring an individual who is board-certified in a specialized area, versus hiring an individual who has completed a specialized residency, versus hiring an individual who has completed a fellowship in a specialized area? Which of these education accomplishments is the best fit for the organization?

5. What are the key decision points for an individual seeking to enhance their education base? For example, when should an individual seek additional general training in a specialized area, versus becoming board-certified in a specialized area, versus completing a specialized residency in a specialized area, versus completing a fellowship in a specialized area? Which of these pharmacy education endeavors is the best fit for the individual seeking to enhance their education base?

6. What key decision points should an organization consider to determine if an individual with a specific type of education is to practice at the system level or at the singular health care site (eg, infectious disease specialist assigned for antibiotic stewardship activities: system level, singular health care site, or both)?

7. What is the impact on individuals who have completed a pharmacy education offering only to find that their health care organization or locale does not have an environment for them to apply their levels of expertise to the fullest extent possible?

8. What patient care needs are not being met through current pharmacy education offerings?

9. Are there pharmacy education offerings that have marginal impact on patient care and should be eliminated due to excessive cost, compared to the patient care value provided by the education offering?

Proposing The Center for Integrated Pharmacy Education

Establishing The Center for Integrated Pharmacy Education would serve to provide answers to these questions within the ever-changing health care environment. The purpose of such a centralized clearinghouse is to:

  • Aggregate information pertaining to the various pharmacy education offerings available to pharmacists and pharmacy technicians
  • Serve as a research site to assess the integration of pharmacy education offerings to patients in society as a whole, to health care systems, to singular health care sites, and to individual pharmacists/pharmacy technicians in their quest for professional growth
  • Conduct ROI studies of pharmacy education offerings as compared to the benefit of the education offerings to the individual, the hiring organization, and overall health care in society

Pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, health care organizations, and entities providing pharmacy education would have access to The Center for Integrated Pharmacy Education data to determine which pharmacy education offerings are the best fit for individual pharmacy caregivers, patients, and health care organizations.

Under this concept, The Center would reside within a school/college of pharmacy in order to provide the academic rigor of pharmacy education offerings analysis. The Center would be housed in a division separate from school/college of pharmacy departments that provide pharmacy education to practicing pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. This separation is essential to avoid bias and conflicts of interest between the analysis of pharmacy education offerings and the provision of pharmacy education by the school/college of pharmacy.

Conclusion

Pharmacy education options for pharmacists and technicians have increased in the number and types available. To integrate pharmacy education offerings into a systemized schema, we propose the establishment of The Center for Integrated Pharmacy Education. The Center would perform ROI analyses of pharmacy education offerings to evaluate their value to the individual pharmacy caregiver, the health care organization that hires individuals who have received this education, and the benefit to societal patient care at large. The Center also would serve to identify pharmacy education needs that do not meet current/future patient and pharmacy practice needs and integrate and systematize pharmacy education offerings.

A sample Pharmacy Technologist Education Offering Assessment by The Center for Integrated Pharmacy Education is available in the SIDEBAR.


James R. Rinehart, RPh, MS, FASHP, is principal of Winovation Associates, LLC, in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is a health system pharmacy management specialist and a consultant in medication systems management and medication safety. James can be reached at JRRinehart@aol.com.


SIDEBAR
Sample Pharmacy Technologist Education Offering Assessment by The Center for Integrated Pharmacy Education

The Center for Integrated Pharmacy Education would also serve to promote the pharmacy technologist position/BS Pharmacy Technologist degree education offering assessment:

Q: How does the pharmacy technologist education integrate with the scope of pharmacy practice?
A: The pharmacy technologist education is integrated within the scope and functions of pharmacy practice by ensuring safe, consistent, and regulatory/accreditation-compliant pharmacy operations that are in concert with the roles and responsibilities of pharmacy technicians and pharmacists to meet patient medication therapy needs.

Q: Will the BS Pharmacy Technologist degree fill an existing/future education gap in pharmacy practice?
A: By providing a formal, consistent education foundation in pharmacy operations, the degree will meet a currently unfilled need in pharmacy practice as formal education in comprehensive pharmacy operations does not currently exist. Pharmacy operations education is currently gained via on-the-job training, which in turn leads to high variability in pharmacy operations education, skill sets, and performance. As pharmacy operations have increased in complexity, on-the-job training no longer provides a sufficient education foundation to ensure the proper management of pharmacy operations.

Q: Will the BS Pharmacy Technologist degree provide a positive return on investment (ROI) to the individual obtaining the degree and to the organization?
A: With the provision of career advancement and increased earning opportunities for pharmacy technicians via career progression to the pharmacy technologist, the degree will deliver a positive ROI. Pharmacies will have access to formally trained pharmacy technologists with the skill set necessary to ensure pharmacy operations are performed safely and in compliance.

Q: How does the pharmacy technologist position provide a needed patient care skill set that does not exist (or marginally exists) at health care systems?
A: Pharmacy technologists will have the education and skill sets necessary for the provision of safe, consistent performance of pharmacy operations and be able to ensure regulatory/accreditation compliance of pharmacy operations. The skill sets of individuals currently engaged in pharmacy operations are not consistent across pharmacy practice sites. In addition, when individuals involved with pharmacy operations management leave an organization, there often are not individuals with the necessary education and skill sets readily available for hire.

The concept behind the pharmacy technologist position, with the corresponding BS Pharmacy Technologist degree, is a pharmacy education offering that is integrated within the profession of pharmacy and the provision of patient care. This pharmacy education offering fulfills a health care need that does not currently exist and provides a positive ROI to individuals pursuing the pharmacy technologist position/BS Pharmacy Technologist degree, to organizations who hire the pharmacy technologist, and patient care as a whole.

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