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Transforming Technicians: Insights Into the Expanding Roles of Pharmacy Technicians

Transforming Technicians: Insights Into the Expanding Roles of Pharmacy Technicians by Elements magazine | pbahealth.com


September 15, 2016


Pharmacists aren’t the only ones with expanding job duties in the pharmacy.

“The roles of the pharmacy technician are evolving and expanding concurrently with those of the pharmacist,” said Miriam A. Mobley Smith, Pharm.D., FASHP, director of strategic alliances at the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB).

With pharmacists clearing up their schedules to provide more clinical care services to patients, pharmacy technicians are stepping up to the plate and taking on more job duties.

Pharmacy techs and the future

Pharmacy technicians have always served a valuable role in the pharmacy setting, such as entering prescription information and preparing medications. But the career’s future is looking even brighter, Mobley Smith said.

“In 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted a nine percent growth in the job outlook for pharmacy technicians, which represented a faster growth average than all other occupations,” she said. “This was predicted due to an increased demand for prescription medications and related pharmacy services.”

The duties of pharmacy technicians have already started advancing.

Today, pharmacy techs support pharmacists in areas of medication reconciliation, medication therapy management, immunization delivery, indigent care programs, investigational drug programs, sterileand non-sterile compounding, pharmacist-managed chronic care clinics, tech-check-tech programs, point- of-care testing services, quality assurance and quality improvement initiatives, patient safety initiatives, informatics and health information technology and telepharmacy, among numerous other roles. And in some states, pharmacy technicians may even serve as members on pharmacy boards.

The education debate

The education and licensure required to become a pharmacy technician vary state-by-state. And a lack of uniform knowledge, skills and competency-based preparation is a potential downside to pharmacy technicians taking on advanced duties in a pharmacy practice.

Mobley Smith advises that independent community pharmacies require their pharmacy technicians to be subject to rigorous standards before assuming increased roles and responsibilities in the pharmacy.

“This will ensure they provide the highest quality health care to improve patient outcomes and protect the public’s health in the process,” she said. “Without uniform standards, many pharmacists have voiced concerns about technician quality, ability to delegate greater tasks and the potential impact on their license if errors occur that can be attributed to pharmacy technicians under their supervision.”

Techs of the trade

Assigning pharmacy technicians to take on more roles can help increase the business of independent community pharmacy.

“There are some estimates that the implementation of tech-check-tech initiatives may have a net effect of freeing greater than 20 percent of the pharmacist’s time, so that they can engage in advanced patient care roles and services,” Mobley Smith said.

Delegating pharmacy technicians to gather patient data, schedule appointments, perform vital sign measurements or perform non-health related business tasks, such as marketing and front-end sales, can also free up the pharmacist’s time.

Mobley Smith said pharmacy technicians can also play a valuable role in working with pharmacy automation systems and helping to resolve patient insurance issues.

“Educated and skilled pharmacy technicians can be delegated many of the technical, non-clinically judgmental roles to allow the pharmacist to concentrate on those roles and responsibilities that require patient- related clinical judgment,” she said.

In your business

Inspire your own pharmacy technicians to expand their knowledge by requiring participation in professional development courses or joining organizations that will help them continue to learn new skills.

“Pharmacy owners can also consider building in incentives to encourage technicians to expand their knowledge and expertise with an accompanying opportunity to work closely with pharmacists on the development of revenue-generating patient care services,” Mobley Smith said. “It’s important torecognize the value that the technician brings to the business and every pharmacy employee’s responsibility in ensuring the overall success of the business.”

Advancing the pharmacy technician profession can influence the future of your business—and the future of the pharmacy profession.

“As pharmacists, we need to take charge of our profession and envision what we want our future practice to be,” Mobley Smith said. “A better qualified pharmacy technician workforce will improve patient safety, provide greater consistency to enable the expansion of technician roles and responsibilities, give us greater confidence in the delegation of technical tasks to technicians, promote less turnover in technician positions, proactively address drug diversion prevention and advance the profession overall. We must strive to agree on where we are going, work together to get there, take action now and be steadfast on the journey.”


Technician standards by state

Regulations on the duties of pharmacy technicians vary widely by state. Here are a few key standards that differ.

 

Source: Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB)

 

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