February 2000

Clinical Pharmacy Initiative Reins in Runaway Costs

The rising cost of pharmaceuticals is a major contributor to the rising cost of health care, but Catholic Health Initiatives’ national pharmacy council intends to document $3.5 million in pharmacy cost savings during fiscal year 2001. "We have a series of 40 cost-containment initiatives for pharmacy," said George Hill, manager of pharmacy and nutritional services for Catholic Health Initiatives and co-chair of the organization’s national pharmacy council. "They address appropriate utilization of pharmaceuticals as well as proper outcomes. They are available to all facilities within Catholic Health Initiatives, and each facility can pick and choose the programs that best suit their needs and have the potential to result in the greatest cost savings."

The cost-containment programs also encourage pharmacists to become more involved in the clinical setting, Hill said. "Pharmacists cannot just be people who dispense medication. They must be more involved with physicians, nurses and patients to assure cost-effective outcomes and improved quality of care through the use of appropriate medications," he said.

To track cost savings and disseminate best practices, market-based organization pharmacy directors are scheduled to meet in regional clusters four times a year. Each cluster has a leader, who will meet with the other regional leaders three or four times a year. "We see the real power of the Catholic Health Initiatives organization when people get together and share ideas," said Ron Broekemeier, director of pharmacy for Franciscan Health System, Tacoma, Wash., who co-chairs the national pharmacy council with Hill. "And, we know that the process of sharing cost-containment best practices really works. Pharmacy directors in Oregon, Washington and Idaho have been meeting regularly for three years and have achieved $1.5 million in cost savings in the past two fiscal years."

Hill notes that the national pharmacy council is also working on medication safety issues. "The Institute of Medicine just released a study that shows that medication errors account for about 7,000 patient deaths each year in the United States," said Hill. "We’ll be looking at the medication process to increase patient safety and reduce the costs associated with adverse drug events."

The national pharmacy council includes George Hill, Ron Broekemeier and some members of the Clinical Leadership Resource Group. It also includes market-based leaders who can assist others with the implementation of the council’s cost-containment programs and the reporting of results.