From the Dean

Dean Lynda WelageDear Alumni and Friends,

In the United States we spend a tremendous amount of money on health care, and costs continue to escalate. According to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in 2017 health care spending rose 4.7 percent, which is greater than that of inflation or wage growth.

I am pleased to say that that our enrollment remains strong. However, we do not wish to contribute to a potential oversupply, so college leaders are actively evaluating workforce dynamics in the state and considering what we should set for enrollment targets. As the most significant supplier of pharmacists in the state, we will be a responsible partner with the profession in managing our workforce balance.

While the U.S. spends more on health care as compared to other wealthy countries, health outcomes in the U.S.— including mortality—are frequently poorer than our peers. This has led to a dramatic push to improve the U.S. health care system, which is often referred to as the quadruple aim: improving health of populations, enhancing individual patient experiences, reducing cost, and improving the experience of health care professionals.

Multiple pressures and disrupters are also driving change, including:

  • regulatory/legislative/policy reform
  • health care consolidation between insurers and providers
  • new payment models
  • integrated care for population health
  • employers and consumers reassessing health benefits and outcomes due to high cost
  • health care innovations (e.g., gene therapy, next generation sequencing, 3D printed devices and drugs, immunotherapy, etc.) 
  • consumerism and patient experience demanding changes
  • technology acceleration (e.g., sensors, artificial intelligence, EHR, etc.)
  • greater use of data/“big data”
  • telehealth
  • health care workforce changes (e.g., interprofessional, focus on health professional experiences, education, supply and demand)

Pharmacy is clearly not immune to these changes. The pharmacy profession faces a number of unique challenges and I believe that we all must work together to address the multitude of challenges.

Concerns exist in our profession regarding work conditions, such as lack of adequate technical support, push in some settings for pressures to increase volume of prescriptions processed which may then jeopardize quality, concerns regarding lack of breaks, and burnout of pharmacists and their staff. Other concerns include lack of adequate reimbursement, DIR fees, and, for some, the inability of pharmacies to survive in today’s environment. Larger issues in health care, such as pressures for cost-containment, regulatory issues, and others, also have substantial influences within the pharmacy profession.

In addition changes in the pharmacy workforce supply and demand are From the Dean I am pleased to say that that our enrollment remains strong. However, we do not wish to contribute to a potential oversupply, so college leaders are actively evaluating workforce dynamics in the state and considering what we should set for enrollment targets. As the most significant supplier of pharmacists in the state, we will be a responsible partner with the profession in managing our workforce balance. 5 substantially accentuating the existing challenges in our profession. The recent report “Trends in the Pharmacist Workforce and Pharmacy Education” published in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education states:

  • From 2000 until approximately the economic downturn in 2009, pharmacists were in high demand, which led to increases in salaries, signing bonuses, the growth in number of pharmacy schools and growth in enrollment. We now have 145 schools of pharmacy across the country, up from 87 schools in 2005.
  • Since 2009, employers in both the hospital and retail settings have restructured employment via implementation of technology, technicians and increasing use of a part-time workforce.
  • A 2014 HRSA report projected a surplus of 48,900 pharmacists by 2025; however, subsequent market trends have accelerated the timeline for this projection.
  • Most recently the HRSA Allied Health Workforce 2016-2030 Projections predicted that we will face a surplus of pharmacists moving forward even when accounting for increased demand based on changing demographics and evolving health care delivery systems. This surplus will likely lead to more challenges including potential contraction in salaries, as pharmacists are currently among the most highly paid health professionals.

Concerns regarding oversupply and high debt incurred by students has led to substantial drops in pharmacy school enrollment across the country. As a dean, I am pleased to say that that our enrollment remains strong. However, we do not wish to contribute to a potential oversupply, so college leaders are actively evaluating workforce dynamics in the state and considering what we should set for enrollment targets. As the most significant supplier of pharmacists in the state, we will be a responsible partner with the profession in managing our workforce balance.

Of course supply is only one half of the equation that contributes to a healthy workforce balance. Building demand is equally, if not more, important. I can honestly say that at no point in my career has there been broader appreciation for the negative impact of suboptimal medication use in our health care system. Unfortunately, our profession is not fully capitalizing on this recognition in a manner that will drive demand for pharmacists’ services. The college is and will continue to be a proactive partner in building demand for pharmacists’ services. Examples of current efforts include:

  • Collaborating with the Minnesota Department of Health to expand contributions of pharmacists in improving hypertension and diabetes care. 
  • Supporting the adoption and expansion of pharmacogenomics services, led by pharmacists.
  • Collaborative initiatives to support pharmacists in improving opioid use to prevent opioid use disorder and better support those patients suffering from this condition.
  • Partnering with health plans and the practice community across the state to expand engagement of pharmacists in payment opportunities for medication management services.

These are some examples of current collaborative initiatives, but we need to do more to truly drive awareness and demand for the important contributions pharmacists Continued on page 6 Supply is only one half of the equation that contributes to a healthy workforce balance. Building demand is equally, if not more, important. The college is and will continue to be a proactive partner in building demand for pharmacists’ services. 6 can make to improving health and health care. Change is hard, but we must not run from it. When considering the degree to which we are creating an environment that drives demand for pharmacists, we must honestly reflect on whether we are effectively driving change in our profession or simply reacting to it. Are we truly committed to change in our profession?

This is a state in which pharmacists, via professional organizations and the college, unite to promote advocacy issues and shape our profession. But we must go beyond this and work together to tackle the challenges in our profession, define our future and implement our clinical and professional innovations. The college is here to serve as a convener and a facilitator to help move our Minnesota pharmacy profession forward. But we need input in order to best know how to convene with and partner with the profession in new, quicker and more robust ways. As a result, I’m pleased to share that I am in the process of establishing a new advisory council of local pharmacy leaders in the state that will:

  • Ensure the voice of the practicing pharmacist is heard within the college.
  • Identify opportunities for academicpractice partnerships that drive demand for pharmacists’ services and work together to tackle other challenges in our profession.
  • Outline strategies for the college to contribute to the workforce development such that pharmacists have the knowledge and skills required to transition to new roles. 
  • Accelerate the rate of responsiveness of the college to current and future market demands and opportunities.

While we have a lot of work to do, we can change pharmacy by working together. I am excited about our future.

Thanks you, 

Lynda S. Welage, PharmD, FCCP