This article is sponsored by Enclara Pharmacia. In this Voices interview, Hospice News sits down with Monica Han, Clinical Sales Specialist at Enclara Pharmacia, to learn about the transformation of the hospice inpatient sector and the operating models within it. She also provides advice for organizations seeking to develop or expand their own inpatient services and offers an outlook on the sector in the years to come.
Hospice News: What career experiences do you most draw from, in your role today?
Monica Han: I have spent most of my professional career in hospice pharmacy and have been fortunate enough to take on a variety of roles. All of those experiences have brought me to where I am today in my career. My diverse experiences allow me to provide a unique perspective on the day-to-day needs of nurses and the demands of operations management. I apply that to streamlining processes, enhancing inpatient unit (IPU) services and supporting hospice leadership through cost containment and customer satisfaction.
How has the inpatient hospice sector changed since you entered the industry, especially in recent years?
In recent years, there’s been an increase in hospices providing inpatient level of care, especially since CMS announced the final payment rule. More and more are also seeking an automated solution to access medications quickly, minimize waste, and increase safety and security.
In addition to that, IPUs are looking for a pharmacy provider that can deliver not only on medication dispensing, but also in areas such as utilization management support, workflow optimization and clinical support. They want to work with a pharmacy partner who really understands the high acuity needs of their patients.
Hospice IPUs come in all sizes and models, what are some key differences and similarities you see among operating models today?
The common goal of every hospice IPU is to get patients the medications they need as quickly as possible. How that’s done is generally dictated by state regulations, budget, pharmacy options available for that unit, and the clinical infrastructure of the hospice. Enclara works with hospices to understand their concerns and expectations through a detailed workflow assessment, then we do a thorough review to determine how we can best meet each of our client’s needs.
What advice would you give to hospices seeking to develop or expand inpatient services?
Make sure the inpatient care center is operating according to state law. Each state has its own set of rules and regulations that may differ depending on the size of the facility, its location and other factors. It is also important to find a pharmacy partner that can service all levels of care and has scalability. Using one provider supports expansion into multiple locations, helps streamline operations and staff training and provides full visibility to your overall pharmacy utilization.
What are some of the key pain points hospice providers face with respect to medication management and access?
With respect to IPUs, working with a pharmacy provider that may not understand the needs of a hospice IPU has been a pain point. It’s a high acuity level of care where patients require a specific set of medications that aren’t readily used by the general public, especially with respect to pain management and narcotics. Often, I hear concerns about medications not in stock, delayed delivery of medications or having to wait until the next day for a response because the pharmacy isn’t open or even on-call.
A lot of hospices also end up facing difficulties when they have multiple locations and offices using different providers and pharmacy models. That complicates not only access but also the ability to track utilization and keep a lid on costs. Different charges and processes for ancillary services like delivery, or even consulting or collaborating with pharmacists, can really add up.
What opportunities and challenges do you anticipate for hospice inpatient care providers in the coming years?
In the coming years, we’re going to see increasing labor costs, drug shortages and price inflation persist. However, these challenges will also pave the way for innovation. Hospices will further leverage technology to help optimize workflows and automate processes any way they can.
Finish this sentence: “The hospice industry in 2023 will be the year of…”
…continued investment in technology and automation to mitigate the administrative burden on clinicians and optimize patient care.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
As the nation’s leading pharmacy services provider and PBM for the hospice and palliative care community, Enclara Pharmacia ensures timely and reliable medication access in any care setting through a comprehensive network of retail and institutional pharmacies, a national patient-direct dispensing program and dedicated inpatient services. To learn more, visit www.enclarapharmacia.com.
The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format. For more information on Voices, please contact [email protected].