Hospital Pharmacy and the Economy – Big Challenges Equate to Big Opportunities in 2021
While the pandemic has stressed the entire health care system it has also negatively impacted the economy. As business and travel has shut down or been greatly reduced in an attempt to slow and contain the spread of the virus the impact on the U.S. economy has been devastating. We have seen record numbers of people losing their jobs and with that comes the loss of employer sponsored health insurance further stressing an already compromised health care system. The government has responded with stimulus packages but political gridlock around the 2020 elections prevented the timely delivery of continuing support in October/November.
Hospitals have also felt the impact economically of the pandemic. In the second quarter of the year as the virus began to spread in earnest, hospitals responded by canceling the majority of elective procedures and reducing census to focus on COVID patients. As a result, most hospitals experienced significant financial losses in the second quarter and are struggling to make up those losses. The government support through coronavirus relief funds has not been enough to offset the financial losses for many organizations and they have been left to figure out how to stay financially viable.
With every big challenge however comes big opportunity, and hospital pharmacy around the country has stepped up and offered solutions to the hospital financial challenges. With drugs as the fastest growing expense in U.S. healthcare and also a primary source of revenue in the outpatient environment, pharmacy has been aggressively expanding programs for hospitals that positively impact expenses and revenue/margin. Pharmacy has been expanding and working to effectively deliver financial value in a variety of areas including:
- Specialty Pharmacy
- Retail/Mail Order
- 340B Program Optimization
- Infusion/Home Infusion Services
- Indigent Patient Support Programs
- Pharmacy Revenue Cycle Optimization
- Drug Utilization/Expense Reduction
- Consolidation of Services/Central Service Center Development
- Enhanced Technology Application/Remote Services
- Labor Efficiencies
- Employee Pharmacy Benefit Design
- Supply Chain Efficiencies
Too often around the country, pharmacy has been an undervalued and underutilized resource for many hospitals but the pandemic is forcing organizations to consider all possible means to combat the virus and its economic impact. Pharmacy can and should be a major consideration in meeting these COVID related challenges.