Technology and Innovation at the Forefront: Highlights from 2023 ASHP Midyear

Check out the insights from this year's largest health system pharmacy conference

December 13, 2023
ASHP Midyear

The 2023 ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting & Exhibition, held in Anaheim, was a dynamic convergence of pharmacy healthcare professionals and industry experts. This year's conference theme of “imagine the possibilities” stood out for its emphatic emphasis on integrating technology and automation across. From discussions about patient affordability and access to the growing importance of health equity, the meeting was a hotbed of insightful conversations and forward-thinking ideas. This blog post aims to distill some of the key themes and insights that resonated throughout the event, highlighting shifts and challenges in the healthcare sector with innovative solutions to address them. From the persistent challenges of prior authorizations to the expanding role of specialty pharmacy, and the pressing workforce issues in hospitals, this year's meeting shed light on the crucial intersection of healthcare delivery, technology, and patient care.  

Affordability and access for patients are still top of mind

The cost of healthcare continues to rise. In fact, a new survey said that 40% of respondents have reported an increase in their healthcare costs and 48% have taken drastic measures such as postponing essential care and forgoing prescriptions. Finding ways to keep patients adherent to care plans and medications is critical to avoid readmissions and other adverse healthcare events. One way is to efficiently find patient assistance for high-cost medications so that patients adhere to care plans and show up for necessary appointments. While this tends to be a cumbersome and manual process for pharmacy teams, there are tech options to automate everything from matching patients to programs, enrolling patients and tracking the awards.  

Health equity is becoming a strategic priority

In the past couple years, health equity has been on everyone’s mind, but meaningful action and progress has been limited. However, according to Deloitte’s 2024 Health Equity Outlook, leaders are expecting to invest more towards advancing health equity. Approximately half of leaders expect to increase investments in health equity next year and 80% said that health equity will be in their top ten business goals. Additionally, more than half (53%) expect regulatory pressures (such as CMS’s Hospital Commitment to Health Equity and The Joint Commission’s new standard LD.04.03.08) to drive initiatives on health equity. There are many ways to focus on health equity. One opportunity is to optimize patient financial assistance with technology so that it provides a proactive, meaningful and quantifiable impact to vulnerable populations.

Prior authorizations are still a challenge for every provider

Prior authorizations are always one of the top challenges for providers due to the complexity, time required and impact on access. Historically, central authorization units have tackled all prior authorizations. Lately, pharmacy enterprises are assuming responsibility for drug-related authorizations under both the medical benefit and pharmacy benefit. Given pharmacy’s drug and supply chain expertise, the transition makes sense, but this is still a time-consuming and most often a manual process. Organizations are looking for solutions which can increase time-to-therapy and reduce denials.

More and more providers are developing or expanding specialty pharmacies

Health systems and hospitals are ramping up their specialty pharmacy services. Those without existing services are developing quickly and those with established programs are looking to expand their reach and re-evaluate vendor relationships. With value-based arrangements focused on outcomes as well as significant revenue (especially for 340B entities), a robust specialty strategy has a material impact on the organization. This is another space where technology adoption (patient assistance platforms, clinical pharmacy management software, patient engagement tools and supply chain logistics) has the opportunity to increase efficiency and support growth.  

The workforce challenges that plague hospitals is prevalent in pharmacy

Burnout has caused 1 in 5 healthcare workers to leave the industry. Increasing workloads and job-related stress have led to burnout and staffing shortages. However, these workforce challenges associated with retention, job satisfaction, candidate availability and cost pressures have expedited the adoption of technology within the pharmacy enterprise. From hardware like carousels and IV robots, to software for specialty clinical management, IV compounding, patient assistance and prior authorization, technology has helped offset some of these challenges. Recognizing some of the complexities in play, vendors with these technologies now offer unique partnership strategies giving flexibility and configurability to hospitals and health systems.  

In conclusion, the 2023 ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting & Exhibition was a pivotal gathering that underscored the significant role of technology and automation in transforming healthcare. The conference highlighted critical issues such as patient affordability, health equity and the challenges of prior authorizations, while also emphasizing the growing importance of specialty pharmacies and addressing workforce challenges in hospitals. As we move forward, the integration of technology in healthcare is set to play an even more crucial role in enhancing patient care, improving efficiency, and driving the industry towards a more equitable and effective future.