March 08, 2018

Pharmacy Awareness Month Profile Series, Part II: Lori Hanson

Q:What are some of the key elements of your role as a Pharmacy Technician?

A: We are the only province in Canada that manages hospital pharmacy for the entire province. My key role is to support all the provincial hospitals—everything from helping with computer systems, to being the go-between for pharmacy and finance.

But the biggest part of my job is providing support for ordering pharmaceuticals, letting pharmacies know what’s on contract and what’s available. We have a huge backorder database to maintain and update. In effect, we make sure that not every pharmacy in the province is doing the same legwork.

Q: How has that role changed over the years?

A: Thanks primarily to regulation, the role of Pharmacy Technician has changed dramatically. This is especially true as it relates to the scope of practice. When I first started, our work had to be checked by a pharmacist; now, depending upon the practice, techs check the work of assistants. In Red Deer, clinically deployed techs work in heart function clinics, in the ICU department and in emergency doing medication requisitions.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of being a hospital Pharmacy Technician?

A: The most rewarding part of my current role is helping front-line staff do the day-to-day purchasing to get the stock in and to the patients. They are grateful for the support and knowing they don’t have to do the digging. They know that when they contact us, we’ll be on it. We move drugs all over the province, from one hospital to another so that patients get what they need. I see a lot of good endings because we pull together.

Q: Is there a particular project or challenge that you are most proud to have worked on?

A: In 2016, one of our hospitals was having a problem with its perpetual inventory.  So, along with our process improvement people, we travelled three hours to that facility and spent a few days brainstorming ideas about how to solve the problem. We brought our knowledge from other hospitals and could say “try this” or “stay away from this approach.” As a result, the hospital got its inventory on track. At its last count, their adjustment was minimal. That hospital’s success was really a highlight.

Q: What is one thing you’d want readers to know about the hospital pharmacy supply chain that they might not realize?

A: One thing people don’t realize is that when a pharmacy orders product, it’s not necessarily in a format we can give to a patient. It may need to be repackaged, or reconstituted. With that in mind, we have many checks and balances in place, whether for an oral mediation or an IV. Many calculations go into making the correct dose ready for the patient. That takes time and our skills.

Q: What is the most interesting or exciting prospect/change you see on the horizon for hospital pharmacy?

A: The most exciting change in Alberta Health Services is that we’re in the process of implementing a province-wide computer system for all our hospital pharmacies. A core group of planners began building the system in February.  The plan is to have the first sites go live in fall of 2019.  Then, a staggered implementation will take place. By fall of 2022, we will all be on the same system.  It will allow everyone to see patient profiles. We will be able to communicate securely if a patient moves from one hospital to another. We’ll be able to communicate with other teams for referrals or advice or track a patient’s progress. It will be fantastic.

Q: How does being part of HealthPRO help your facility reinforce safe medication management?

A; HealthPRO places a lot of value on product evaluation. They bring together experts from different areas of the country to look at the products being considered for contracts. This helps reinforce safe medication management and it is invaluable. Secondly, the process in place for product concerns and follow-up that HealthPRO provides is great. HealthPRO is big enough, and strong enough, that they can go back to these companies with our concerns. In many cases, companies then act upon our recommendations and make changes.