Tag Archives: Oncology Pharmacy Education Network (OPEN)

OPEN Pre-Conference Highlights

By Amanda Patton, ACCC Communications

New ACCC "Hub" in the Exhibit Hall, one-stop for resources, informatiion, and membership information

ACCC “Hub” in the Exhibit Hall welcomes conference attendees with a central source for resources and information on everything ACCC.

We’re in St. Louis for the ACCC 33rd National Oncology Conference this week. Events got underway on Wednesday, October 19, with dynamic pre-conference sessions focused on some of the most challenging and rapidly evolving areas in cancer care delivery. Read on for highlights from the Oncology Pharmacy Education Network (OPEN) pre-conference.

A morning panel discussion during the OPEN Pre-Conference focused on strategic planning for the oncology pharmacy. Zaven Norigian, PharmD, BCOP, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, moderated a discussion with Steve D’Amato, BSPharm, New England Cancer Specialists, and Ali McBride, PharmD, MS, BCPS, BCOP, University of Arizona Cancer Center, that touched on some of the toughest challenges for oncology pharmacy today. Among these:

Cost of drugs. Pharmacy budgets continue to increase, the value of inventories in clinics is escalating, and if programs are not paid in a timely manner, cash flow problems will result. With the increase in immunotherapies and new oral agents, programs are wrestling with how to afford of these therapies and provide access to these for all of their patients. “The bank is going to break eventually,” said D’Amato.

Implementing genomic testing. Operationalizing this in the community setting is creating big challenges for the oncology pharmacy, panelists agreed. It requires a multidisciplinary approach providing integration and education for clinical pharmacists and nurses. There must be buy-in from everyone.

EHR and data issues. Programs need to be able to mine their data, understand their data, and reduce the staff time needed to collect and report data. Pharmacy is looking to technology to solve some of these important issues—without being “nickel and dimed to death” by their EHR vendors, panelists said.

USP 800. This is top-of-mind if you work in pharmacy, panelists agreed. Among the pressing challenges: How do you explain issues related to USP 800 compliance to the C-suite? Attendees were urged to act now—if they haven’t already—and at a minimum bring in a consultant to determine what it will cost to be compliant by 2018. “We know it’s going to be costly…it’s not something you can flip the switch one day and start it,” said Norigian.

Succeeding with Oral Oncolytics

An OPEN Pre-conference session tackling a critical current day challenge highlighted ACCC’s education initiative, Steps to Success: Implementing Oral Oncolytics. (The session was broadcast live, and will be available on the ACCC website on-demand soon.)

“One of the biggest challenges with oral oncolytics is that we put so much responsibility on the patient,” said presenter Niesha Griffith, RPh, MS, FASHP, West Virginia University Health System. Pharmacists need to be “on the frontlines” of taking care of oncology patients, she said.

Calling attention to the Steps to Success white paper developed as part of this ACCC initiative, Griffith focused on the project’s key programmatic recommendations for successful integration of oral oncolytics:

  • Take a multidisciplinary approach
  • Assign responsibilities; clearly identify who is responsible for what
  • Work collaboratively with specialty pharmacy (as needed)
  • Provide financial advocacy services
  • Develop a robust patient education program
  • Put in place effective processes for monitoring for adherence and toxicity
  • Maximize the use of technology

Griffith stressed the importance of developing robust case management platforms so that all providers can document information from patient visits. Where possible, develop methods to streamline processes. For example, devising a streamlined process for prior authorizations can help avoid pulling staff away from frontline care for this time-consuming task. Access more resources from ACCC on successful integration of oral oncolytics here.

Stay tuned for more from the ACCC 33rd National Oncology Conference from ACCCBuzz. Follow the conference highlights on Twitter #ACCCNOC.

The Oncology Pharmacist’s Role in Patient-Centered Care

By Annie Lambert, PharmD

ThinkstockPhotos--pharmacy2-for-webI knew I wanted to be a pharmacist after I completed a job shadow at our local hospital when I was a junior in high school.  I was fascinated by the role pharmacists played on the healthcare team, joining providers on rounds and troubleshooting issues related to medications and infusion pumps.  It was clear to me early on that it takes a whole team to achieve the best outcome for the patient.  My path led me to oncology pharmacy, where my passion for patient care was fed and my mind was challenged daily. I was able to engage with patients and the healthcare team on another level.  It was a pleasure to see my patients each week, giving them relief of their side effects when I could, and developing relationships over the course of their treatment.  Over the years, our cancer program grew to include more team members.  What a privilege to collaborate with my multidisciplinary colleagues–social workers, dietitians, nurses, physicians, nurse practitioners, and so many others on our care team.

As we all know, it takes a special type of person to work with cancer patients.   I am fortunate to work with an exceptionally dedicated and compassionate team of oncology pharmacists and technicians.  Many of them have a personal connection to cancer, while others enjoy the challenge of keeping up with new drugs and treatments.  But all of them say their favorite part of their job is talking with our patients.  Another testament that patients are at the heart of what we do!

 The Oncology Pharmacist’s Unique Role

Not all patients can say they have a personal relationship with their pharmacist.  Many patients come to us thinking about their pharmacy team at their local drug store, but oncology pharmacists do so much more!  At MultiCare Regional Cancer Center, each new patient meets with a pharmacist to review their treatment, side effects, and symptom management strategies.  If an oral chemotherapy is prescribed, our pharmacist helps connect them to the right specialty pharmacy or supports the prior authorization team to ensure the patient gets their treatment started.  During their treatment, a pharmacist will check in with them to help manage their nausea, bowels, or electrolytes. This is the care model that intrigued me as a high school student and still demonstrates value today.

New Technologies and Challenges

Over the years, new technologies have entered into our cancer program, changing the way my team interacts with patients—among these are advances that enable an electronic health record (EHR), computerized provider order entry (CPOE), smart infusion pumps, barcode scanning . . . I could go on! But it’s important to recognize that these high-tech tools do not replace the personal, high-touch work that we do; instead, they enhance our work, making the care we provide safer and more efficient. And at times, in the midst of a launch of new technology, it can be hard to keep that in mind. But the fact is, these new tools, too, are about delivering patient-centered care.

Oncology is an ever-evolving discipline.  The number of new drugs approved in the last few years is staggering!  For patients, this is an exciting time with the potential for more choices with fewer side effects. Or, for example, to know that their drug regimen is tailored to the genetic markers on their cancer.  For pharmacists and other oncology clinicians, this makes it more challenging than ever to keep up with the latest trends and treatment options. What do we need to build into our electronic medical record protocols and infusion pump libraries?  How do we learn enough about a new drug to ensure we are treating patients safely on the first dose and on the twelfth or twentieth dose?   What type of toxicity—physical or financial—should we be prepared for? How much does this cost our organization and our patients?

We have come so far yet we still have so much to learn!   We strive to improve our processes and quality to better serve our patients.  With each new drug, initiative, or technology upgrade, let us remember to keep our focus.  Patients are at the heart of the team.

National Pharmacy Week is coming up October 16-22.  Take a few moments to thank a pharmacist or technician you know, whether directly part of your cancer program or the team that indirectly supports your patients. 

On October 19,  ACCC is presenting the Oncology Pharmacy Education Network (OPEN) Pre-Conference in conjunction with the ACCC 33rd National Oncology Conference (October 19-21) in St. Louis, MO. 


Annie Lambert, PharmD, is Oncology Pharmacy Manager at ACCC member program MultiCare Regional Cancer Center in Tacoma, WA.