What’s Ahead for Long-Term Care Providers and Pharmacies in 2017

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Long-term care providers and pharmacies have to reinvent themselves in order to keep up with the changing industry

While the healthcare industry as a whole is undergoing a significant period of change, the long-term care (LTC) industry has been in a constant state of flux and has been dramatically impacted by regulatory changes, new technology, and the changing expectations of the aging population for many years.

With an estimated 20% of the population reaching 65 years or older by 2030, the LTC industry will grow significantly in the next 15 years. While this “aging boom” brings great opportunity, it increases pressure on LTC providers who will have to continually reinvent themselves to keep up with the ever-changing requirements and demands of industry regulators and their patients.

Moreover, LTC pharmacies will face additional pressures as many communities look to them to augment resources and increase support. In 2017 and beyond, we will see LTC pharmacies offer value-added services that can improve the overall quality of patient care, such as data and analytic capabilities, services beyond the management of medications, and assistance navigating regulatory changes.

Measurable Results to Improve Care

Over the past several years, we have seen a slow but steady increase in the implementation of electronic medication administration record systems (eMARs) and electronic health records (EHRs). This momentum is expected to increase through 2017, as more LTC communities look for ways to provide better patient care and streamline internal practices. While 59% of providers reported using EHRs in January 2016, the industry still has a way to go before we see full adoption from all parties.

For providers using these systems, there will be a new focus on better understanding the current technology and how to reap the benefits from the real-time data and information that is already being collected.  For instance, with eMARs, providers have the ability to diagnose diseases and reduce medication errors, identify patients due for preventive visits and screenings, monitor psychotropic drug usage and how to eliminate it, and much more. Coupled with EHRs, providers can gain a holistic look at a patient’s health profile, as these records include everything from medication records and medical histories to dietary restrictions and immunization dates. This comprehensive view of a patient’s overall profile helps providers make better informed decisions that improve the overall quality of care.

We will also see a push for greater integration with health information exchanges (HIEs) in 2017. While HIEs are in the early implementation phases, the benefits of such systems are now becoming recognized as essential to overall patient care. HIEs enable users to share patient information safely and securely with all necessary parties outside of private networks. In this way, all doctors, nurses, pharmacists, other health care providers can gain access to information and data about the patients they serve. With this steady flow of information, providers can work more quickly to avoid readmissions, reduce medication errors, improve diagnoses, and decrease duplicate testing.

The data eMARs, EHRs and HIEs provide can positively impact the LTC industry, and we will continue to see the adoption rates of such technology offerings soar as we enter 2017. It does, however, go without saying there are also unique challenges with technology. Some providers feel these systems provide nothing but a “data overload,” however with the right team, tools and processes in place, providers can properly manage, understand, and benefit from this data. When considering utilizing these systems for their data capabilities, consult with a LTC pharmacy partner. LTC pharmacies play a vital role in the technology puzzle and can help providers integrate technology into their workflow to best meet their ongoing needs.

Services Beyond Medication Dispensing

In the past, LTC pharmacies were tasked primarily with dispensing medications, but this role has been changing and will continue to do so. Looking forward, pharmacies will be expected to provide services beyond the “pills” to benefit LTC providers and residents. From handling issues with medication billing, securing pre-authorization and helping to manage Medicare Part D plans, to conducting patient drug regimen reviews and identifying adverse drug reactions or polypharmacy issues, LTC pharmacies should continually look for ways to provide enhanced services to their established partners.

Communities will also look to their pharmacy partners to take an active role in the education of their staff. Well educated caregivers make fewer mistakes and provide an increased level of customer care. Moreover, they are more confident and feel better about their job which translates into reduced staff turnover, an issue seriously impacting the industry with more than 60% of health care workers reporting job burn out, according to CareerBuilder.

Enhanced Collaboration to Meet New Regulations

With each new year also comes new long-term care regulatory changes. While ultimately the goal of these changes is to further public and patient safety, LTC providers often face challenges when trying to meet the requirements of these regulations on their own. We expect to see a new collaboration among all parties involved in resident care – the physician, the facility, the pharmacy and other providers – as they recognize the need to be united in order to seamlessly adapt to new regulatory changes and establish new best practices.

In 2017, we can expect to see even more shifts in the industry. With a new president in office, expected Medicare and Affordable Care Act changes, and new demands from seniors, it’s clear next year will bring its own set of challenges. However, improvements in the LTC industry require a unified effort from all involved. By establishing policies and procedures and by working with the right partners, health care professionals have a greater chance of staying informed and educated in this ever-changing industry while also continuously raising standards of care to better serve the aging population.

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About Author

Rich Eakins
Rich Eakins

Rich Eakins has over a decade of experience in account management, business development and national sales in the long-term care pharmacy industry. Having served as sales director for Omnicare for over seven years, vice president of business development for Heritage Healthcare for two years and leading business development for Connect 4 Healthcare, Rich has deep subject-matter expertise on growing the local LTC pharmacy business and developing a national presence in the LTC pharmacy marketplace. Previously, Rich worked a combined 17 years with IBM and Aramark in administration, business development and management roles. He joined Guardian Pharmacy in 2012.

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