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Hospital Pharmacy Staffing Benchmarks

  • March 2, 2021
  • RPh on the Go

Hospital pharmacies are dynamic, fluid environments. The hospital pharmacists that run them have many complex responsibilities. Having benchmarks, as well as metrics in place to optimize productivity, is critical.

What is Staffing in Pharmacy

There are many components to consider with staffing in pharmacy. In a nutshell, the number of pharmacy employees, their workloads, and hospital pharmacy departments’ productivity are all facets of staffing. Hospital pharmacies rely on funding and budgets to ensure that patient needs are being met optimally

Pharmacy staffing involves scheduling, operations, ratios of patients per pharmacist, and many other factors. There are different staffing models and benchmarks to aspire to, all to maximize the hospital pharmacy output and effectiveness for patients.

What are the Responsibilities of a Hospital Pharmacist?

The central figure in a hospital pharmacy setting is the hospital pharmacist. Staffing considerations and optimal patient care revolve around the hospital pharmacist. This specialist has many critical duties and responsibilities, including:

  • Managing Medicine. Hospital pharmacists determine the correct medication for patients. They need to do so in a fast-paced environment, and many of these decisions are crucial for patient health and wellbeing. Individuals have different needs and drug reactions, and hospital pharmacists help them reach the best possible outcomes.
  • Imparting Knowledge: Often, the hospital pharmacist is the go-to for reliable information. Patients with specific situations can turn to the hospital pharmacist for individual advice, including drug interaction and side effect counseling. Other employees frequently turn to the hospital pharmacist, as well.
  • Discharging Patients: Many of these specialists analyze discharge paperwork to make sure that patients are ready to leave the hospital. This responsibility involves reading over the discharge summary and ensuring that each patient’s prescriptions are correct and appropriate.
  • Beyond the Pharmacy: Besides the many duties they have in the hospital, these pharmacists also have other responsibilities outside of the hospital pharmacy. They are responsible for purchasing, dispensing, and quality-testing their medication stock. They also may need to manufacture drugs when ready-made versions of the medication are out of stock.

Hospital Pharmacy Staffing Models

This section will take a closer look at benchmarking on staffing, workload, and productivity in hospital pharmacy departments. Benchmarking involves one of two approaches: either internal or external. Internal benchmarking involves comparing your performance to your own success over time. External benchmarking is when you compare your company to other industry competitors, similar to your own in size and services offered. The benchmarking data is often figured into budgets and how companies make operational decisions.

There are several hospital pharmacy staffing models, most of which incorporate benchmarking. External productivity monitoring vendors are increasingly used to gather and sift through data using various metrics. Some critical statistics revolving around pharmacy staffing, workload, and productivity, according to recent surveys:

  • 2% felt there should be a system in place to include clinical activities and services in routine productivity monitoring.
  • 22% of pharmacist FTEs time is spent in clinical activities.
  • Community hospitals reported being open on average 122.1 hours per week compared to 101.0 hours in large hospital pharmacy departments.
  • The national average number of FTE pharmacists in respondent hospitals is 10.5
  • The average is 13.1 pharmacists per 100 occupied beds nationally
  • Among a variety of productivity workload ratios, those most commonly reported were full-time equivalents (FTEs) per adjusted patient day, FTEs per dose dispensed, and FTEs per dose billed, reported by 22.7%, 20.0%, and 20.0% of respondents, respectively.
  • The most common reporting interval for productivity monitoring was monthly (n= 50, 45.5%); 22 (20.0%), 10 (9.1%), 10 (9.1%), and 8 (7.3%) respondents reported doing this every two weeks, quarterly, annually, and weekly, respectively.
  • To assess the pharmacy department’s effectiveness or quality of work, pharmaceutical expenditures was the measure most commonly reported indicator(74.5%), followed closely by the number or type of clinical interventions (70.0%), the number of medication errors (67.3%), and total pharmacy expenditures (56.4%).
  • Respondents also reported the mean ± S.D. total number of paid hours for the entire department. The mean for this value was 1,044.2 ± 1,020.1 hours per week (range, 48-5,850). This number was annualized to 54,298.4 hours. The total number of productive hours per week was 917.1 ± 937.5, with a range of 30-5,400 (47,689.2 when annualized). The mean ratio of productive to paid hours was 0.88 ± 0.16.
  • For staffing, respondents were asked to report the number of FTEs for specific pharmacy department positions. For each position, participants indicated both the budgeted and actual numbers of FTEs. The mean ± S.D. total number of budgeted FTEs was 22.89 ± 19.78, and actual FTEs totaled 21.89 ± 18.83 

Hospital Pharmacy Benchmarking Metrics

There are various benchmarking metrics for acute hospitals to help measure performance. The most common types of external benchmarking are metrics are cost-based ratios and labor productivity ratios.

Cost-based ratios include metrics such as:

  • Total pharmacy cost per intensity weighted (adjusted) discharge
  • Drug cost per intensity weighted (adjusted) discharge
  • Labor cost per intensity weighted (adjusted) discharge

Labor productivity ratios include:

  • Hours worked per intensity weighted (adjusted) discharge or patient day
  • Hours worked per CMI weighted (adjusted) discharge or patient day
  • FTEs per order processed) or doses billed, or occupied bed)
  • Pharmacists per 100 beds

Many other measures can be utilized, including workload and outcome metrics.

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