Hospital Pharmacy Operations Report Highlights and What They Mean for UnitVisID Alliance

By Nick Petersen, Bluesight

Bluesight recently unveiled the findings of its 10th annual Hospital Pharmacy Operations Report (HPOR). This annual report is a survey of hospital pharmacy employees on the struggles and priorities for their organizations in the coming year. The survey conducted in the first quarter of 2024, included 275 respondents, 60% of whom have worked in the hospital space for over 10 years. Below are some key takeaways related to UnitVisID Alliance’s mission.

What’s Most Important to Health System Pharmacy?

Respondents were asked what the top issues facing their hospitals are. Below are the top responses.

Staff Shortages

Not only was this indicated as the top issue from the survey, but over 60% of respondents said that at least 1-5+ pharmacy staff positions at their hospital are currently unfilled. Data has shown that staffing shortages have impacted hospital pharmacies for years, with the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) reporting that the turnover rate for pharmacy technicians was at least 20%, with one in 10 pharmacy directors indicating they have lost 40% or more of their technicians.

Drug Shortage Mitigation

In 2023, ASHP tracked 156 new shortages. Shortages of crucial medications not only affect pharmacists’ ability to provide high-quality patient care but also result in more staff hours spent on developing and executing shortage responses and mitigation strategies.

Price Increases

Drug prices increased by 15.2% on average from 2022 to 2023 – that’s a 3.7% greater increase than the previous year, translating to an average price increase of $590 per drug. As hospitals try to navigate decreasing margins, decreasing costs in the face of rising prices is a key concern for hospital pharmacy operation professionals.

Inventory Visibility

Respondents were asked which areas of their hospitals they had the most and least inventory visibility in. They indicated that they had the most visibility in inpatient pharmacy, ordering and receiving, and nursing floors and the least amount of visibility in the transfers of medication between storage and dispensing areas, operating rooms and other procedural areas, and Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs).

Distribution Models

Standardization of operations, metrics, and formularies across health systems is taking center stage in 2024. 74% of respondents plan to standardize their formularies. There are early indicators that larger health systems are starting to leverage a hub and spoke model, allowing them to use a central pharmacy to fulfill the pharmacy needs of other hospitals within the system, with 33% of respondents saying their system uses this method. These central pharmacies are focused on supporting ancillary buildings such as outpatient clinics as well as smaller sister hospitals in the area.

Technology Priorities

The survey identifies controlled substance tracking technologies, IV prep tracking software, and perpetual inventory management software as the top three areas for tech investment in 2024,

overtaking the previous priority of smart pumps that ranked 3rd in last year’s survey. This strategic pivot underscores hospitals’ collective determination to modernize operations and elevate patient care standards. Controlled substance tracking is the only priority that stays in the top three technology focuses year after year, highlighting its mainstay importance.

How can UnitVisID Help Hospitals Achieve What Matters Most to Them?

The HPOR findings clearly show that in the face of ongoing challenges like rising costs, diversion, and drug and staff shortages, hospitals are seeking ways to be more efficient with their time, budgets, and inventories.

One technology that has the potential to revolutionize the healthcare industry by improving medication safety and streamlining processes is RFID.

By aligning stakeholders across the industry to build uniform standards for RFID technology, UnitVisID Alliance’s efforts can contribute to solving the top problems in the hospital pharmacy, such as:

  • Reducing staff effort related to repetitive inventory management tasks can save time and alleviate the effects of staff shortages.
  • Integrating with IV prep and perpetual inventory systems to help hospitals better track IV bags.
  • Focusing on system-to-system handoff for centralized distribution can help improve medication visibility within a hospital system.

Learn more about how UnitVisID Alliance and its members are working to standardize RFID throughout the medication supply chain by joining us.