Best practices in specialty pharmacy management

Courtney J Patterson
Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy: JMCP 2013, 19 (1): 42-8

BACKGROUND: Specialty pharmacy is a growing area of research, utilization, and cost. Because of the unique nature of the diseases treated by specialty pharmaceuticals, such as cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, novel management approaches are needed. Advocate Physician Partners (APP) is an entity within the Advocate Health Care Health System in the Chicago and the central Illinois area. It coordinates the care management and managed care contracting between the Advocate Health Care System and more than 4,000 physicians on the medical staffs of Advocate hospitals. APP has experienced a per-member-per-month (PMPM) increase of less than  3% in oncology intravenous medications spend in 2012. This spend refers to the intravenous medications covered under the medical benefits for APP's health maintenance organization (HMO) population. The spend has consistently been less than national projections, and we believe this is tied to the adoption of several key best practices. Prior to instituting the best practices, the yearly percentage increases for oncology spending were 5.52% (2007 to 2008), 9.39% (2008 to 2009), and 5.29% (2009 to 2010). After instituting best practices during the first quarter of 2011, the increases in PMPM were 3.11% (2010 to 2011) and 2.11% (2011 to 2012), which were below previous years.

OBJECTIVE: To describe the best practices of specialty pharmacy management adopted by APP, specifically (a) establishing a content expert and governing bodies, (b) ensuring compliance with policies, and (c) providing educational resources.

METHODS: APP has several key result areas (KRAs). One KRA was compliance with appropriate utilization of intravenous oncology protocols for its HMO population. The protocols for each medication outline the appropriate indication and patient population. These protocols were developed and reviewed by the APP Pharmacy and Technology (PT) committee. The PT-approved indications reflect FDA indications and indications found in national guidelines. The APP KRA target for the utilization of protocols was 80%. The compliance for completing the protocols that correspond to these medications was calculated by tabulating the number of paid claims over the number of completed protocols, resulting in a compliance percentage. APP defined noncompliance as any utilization not outlined in the protocol. Another KRA was physician feedback. APP requires that physicians complete a certain number of continuing medical education (CME) programs provided by APP each year. Feedback from physicians, provided at the end of the CME, were tabulated and utilized for further programs. Additionally, APP strived to increase physician engagement by placing them in key roles that oversaw clinical and business aspects of the organization. In order to meet the KRAs, investigate inappropriate utilization, and become better involved in engaging oncology specialists, APP invested in an oncology clinical pharmacist position. The primary responsibility of the oncology clinical pharmacist was to be a specialty drug resource for the organization with a focus on provider education. The oncology clinical pharmacist was deemed the content expert who developed clinical protocols, educated providers, and encouraged compliance with organizational policies and procedures as it pertained to the KRAs.

RESULTS: Since establishing the oncology clinical pharmacist position, APP has seen an increase in protocol compliance. Prior to the institution of this position, the protocol compliance was 62%. In less than 1 year after hiring the oncology clinical pharmacist, the compliance percentage spiked to over 80%. APP has several committees and boards that oversee the clinical and business aspects of the organization. By placing physicians in chairmanship positions of the committees, APP has seen the benefit of handling difficult patient decisions and increased compliance with policies. Lastly, extensive provider education has led to an improved physician satisfaction in the educational initiatives of APP. Greater than 80% of the physicians felt the CME content was relevant to their practices; the content would likely have a positive impact on their practices; and the clinical content was evidence based and accepted by the medical community.

CONCLUSIONS: By hiring an oncology clinical pharmacist, engaging physicians by placing them in key roles, and providing more specialist-specific education, APP has improved its KRAs and compliance percentages. APP achieved success in containing expenditures for oncology intravenous medications by implementing key best practices combined with traditional management strategies.

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