The ever-expanding role of consultant pharmacists in long-term care – Drug Topics

By Kathleen Beitzel, Vice President of Professional Solutions and Services, Omnicare

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July 2021

When I took the helm at Omnicare, a CVS Health company, in April 2020, I couldn’t have imagined what the next year and a half would bring. With a background that includes executive, strategy and finance positions, I felt well-equipped to help the company grow and succeed in an increasingly competitive landscape. I was unaware, however, that I’d be responsible for leading more than 7,100 employees, 300 consultant pharmacists, 60 RN’s and 10,000 partner facilities in navigating a years-long global pandemic. Thankfully, I was able to draw on past experiences to carve a path forward amidst so much uncertainty. I knew what we needed to do to be successful and to continue being a strong partner for our customers.

First, ensure that all our employees, customers and their patients and staff remain safe.

It is also always important for a business to have a solid foundation. Omnicare was founded on the principles of customer service, perseverance, convenience, creativity, and efficiency. We innovate to find customizable solutions for each of our unique partners and as a result, we have expanded our value proposition from simply providing medications to hundreds of other value-producing services.

During a time of crisis, the best thing to do is to ensure one’s fundamental business principles and priorities remain the focus. Our core business didn’t stop when the pandemic hit, so we maintained complete focus on our critical objectives: client service, innovation, and culture. I’ve learned that oftentimes, you must take a step back before you can move forward, and you must build a team and foster a company culture that supports and models the same objectives.

Second, be part of the solution.

Our incredibly strong team was fully engaged throughout the pandemic in providing the best service for our clients as possible, despite the obstacles. We delivered industry-leading customer service and products to our customers and at the same time, our teams truly rose to the occasion to take on the additional needs of creating, launching, and operating a complex on-site vaccination program, bringing COVID-19 vaccines not only to Omnicare customers, but to thousands of LTC facilities across the United States that required assistance. Through the on-site clinic program, we administered more than 4.6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses at more than 40,000 long-term care facilities across the country.

Now that the initial clinics have been completed, we are ensuring continued access to vaccines for facility patients and staff through multiple different avenues: either onsite or via access to appointments through CVS retail pharmacies. Meanwhile, we’re continuing to elevate our service levels to provide the best possible partnership for our customers and looking for new ways we can support them as they face a multitude of individual challenges, from low bed counts to staff shortages. A recent survey from The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living revealed that more than half of nursing homes and close to half of assisted living communities are operating at a loss, while only a quarter of these facilities are confident they can remain open for another year or more.

Despite these challenges, I am confident that the demand for long-term and post-acute care will increase in the coming years. Currently, 16.5% of the U.S. population (54 million people) are over the age of 65, according to the latest census. By 2030, that number is expected to rise to 74 million and the number of people over the age of 85, who generally need the most care, is growing even faster.

To prepare for this boom in demand and to ensure a strong future for the industry, we need to work together to rebuild trust in the eyes of consumers and alleviate the burdens and challenges facing facilities’ staff, who are still coping with the trauma, stresses, and pressures of the pandemic. While we’re still not out of the woods with COVID-19, we have an opportunity to come out of this crisis stronger than ever by forming and strengthening partnerships. Whether it’s a pharmacy services provider or a food service provider, seeking out external partners can help cut costs and ease the burden on facility staff, while helping to increase efficiencies and streamline operations. This in turn builds a culture of trust within an organization by ensuring the appropriate experts are on-hand to support and advise where needed, and ensuring staff are not overburdened. In order to provide truly great care, employees should feel good about the work they’re doing, and residents and their loved ones should feel confident in the level of high-quality and personalized care that is being delivered by those facilities’ skilled nurses and other staff.

LTC facilities are a critical part of the health care system and will continue to be in high demand in the coming decades. If we can build trust, confidence and expertise within facilities, the industry will undoubtedly rebound stronger than ever. At Omnicare, we stand ready to do our part and look forward to seeing what the future holds.

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