September 14, 2018
Inside: Are you underutilizing your pharmacy technicians? See how giving pharmacy technicians more duties can create a more efficient independent pharmacy business.
What would happen if you gave pharmacy technicians more responsibilities?
Already an indispensable part of independent pharmacies, pharmacy technicians are capable of more than they’re typically assigned or allowed to do.
“Technicians play a vital role ensuring that the highest levels of customer service are attained,” said Mark Ey, R.Ph., Vice President of Operations at CARE Pharmacies Cooperative, Inc., and member of the Advisory Committee for the Pharmacy Technician Stakeholder Consensus Conference hosted by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB).
“Whether it is direct contact with the patient, providing primary dispensing functions in the most efficient manner, or using enhanced skills, technicians are vital to the customer service experience.”
Even though pharmacies already know the value of pharmacy technicians, most don’t use them to their full potential.
A report by the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy advocating for expanded roles for pharmacy technicians said that community pharmacists spend only 21 percent of their professional time performing patient care services not associated with medication dispensing. If they trusted their pharmacy technicians to perform more tasks, they’d have more time to focus on optimizing patient care.
“Pharmacists must recognize the value of technicians in the pharmacy team,” Ey said. “Pharmacists must invest in their technicians by training them to their maximum potential, letting them take on additional tasks, and then trusting them to do what they are capable of doing. Many pharmacists do not understand that investing a relatively small amount of time and money into a pharmacy technician drives a tremendous return on that investment in both the pharmacist’s time and increased customer service levels.”
Pharmacies typically assign pharmacy technicians basic tasks associated with dispensing. But those tasks should only make up a portion of what they do, Ey said.
Typical pharmacy technician tasks include:
“In my experience, the best pharmacists delegate additional responsibilities, which makes the pharmacy more efficient and therefore able to provide a better customer service experience,” he said.
Expanded tasks pharmacy technicians could perform include:
The University of Pittsburgh report also argued that pharmacy technicians should perform tasks beyond those associated with dispensing medication. “Expanding the role of pharmacy technicians to assume time- and resource-intensive administrative and supportive tasks for pharmacy patient care services redistributes pharmacists’ time to further optimize patient care,” the report said.
The report suggested that pharmacy technicians screen patients, obtain medication histories, verify medications, and even administer immunizations. It cited evidence showing that when pharmacy technicians performed medication verification, accuracy increased. In some studies, the accuracy improved significantly. And, pharmacists reported saving as much as 30 hours per pharmacist per month when pharmacy technicians checked the medication.
“In recent years, some states are allowing technicians to give immunizations and perform basic prescription verification (tech check tech) tasks normally reserved for the pharmacist,” Ey said.
Still, most states don’t allow pharmacy technicians to verify medication and administer immunizations. To fully optimize pharmacy technician’s capabilities, more state legislators will have to get on board.
“Most states limit the pharmacy technician’s scope of practice to certain aspects of the medication dispensing process,” the report said. “Broadening the pharmacy technician’s scope of practice may further advance the pharmacy technician’s role as an important contributor to the healthcare team.”
And as pharmacist scope expands, pharmacy technician scope should expand along with it. “As pharmacists strive for provider status and the payment system becomes a less commodity-based and more outcome-based measurement, pharmacists will need to lean on pharmacy technicians to take on additional responsibilities,” Ey said.
No matter what the future holds for scope of practice laws, independent pharmacies simply can’t afford to underutilize their pharmacy technicians. “With declining reimbursements and increased demands on the pharmacist’s time by outcomes-based payments,” Ey said, “pharmacists must utilize their greatest resource—the pharmacy technician—to help them attain both their service and financial goals.”
Delegating more tasks to your pharmacy technicians can improve your pharmacy’s care. Consider assigning pharmacy technicians new tasks they don’t typically perform. For many of these functions, pharmacy technicians will need to get additional training and certification. And, check your state laws to find out which tasks technicians can legally perform.
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