Pharmacy Practice

Outcomes, Excellence Take the Stage at ASHP's First Specialty Pharmacy Conference

Published: July 16, 2021

Pharmacy professionals met virtually July 14–16 at ASHP’s first standalone specialty pharmacy conference — a forum dedicated to optimizing patient outcomes and attaining operational excellence.

The event featured sessions for new and established specialty pharmacy practitioners and offered professional development opportunities on practice and business topics, plus workshops and poster presentations.

The conference opened with a keynote presentation by Georganne Vartorella, founder and president of Patient Advocacy MD, LLC, of Lakewood, Ohio, who emphasized that the patient is the heart of specialty pharmacy practice.

“I’m passionate about this issue, and I think it’s crucial for you as specialty pharmacists to take leadership roles in accomplishing and ensuring” the best outcomes for patients, Vartorella said. She also emphasized that those outcomes must align with the patient’s wishes.

Vartorella noted that changes in healthcare delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the rise of telehealth and related technologies, have “empowered patients to actively engage as informed participants and make decisions based upon their best interests.”

She added that the pandemic has also highlighted the need to break down the walls within the healthcare system that inhibit communication among healthcare providers, payers, and patients. Specialty pharmacists, she said, can act as patient advocates and leaders by eliminating those communication barriers, thus minimizing denials from payers and ensuring patients get the timely coverage they’re entitled to.

Vartorella has seen pharmacists do just that for patients.


“Pharmacy specialists as leaders in advocacy are essential,” she added. “You have the gravitas, the influence, the experience, expertise, and training to change the system, build trust, mitigate risks, lower costs, and optimize the evidence-based outcomes according to patients’ values, needs, and goals.”

The keynote presentation was followed by a session on ASHP’s inaugural national survey of health-system specialty pharmacy practice, presented by JoAnn Stubbings, clinical associate professor emerita at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) — University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System, and Craig A. Pedersen, pharmacy manager at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Washington.

A virtual town hall led by Udobi Campbell, regional executive director of pharmacy for UNC Health in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, highlighted findings from the February 2021 ASHP Specialty Pharmacy Future Directions Summit. During breakout sessions, specialty pharmacy conference participants discussed opportunities to implement the summit’s recommendations.

The conference also offered sessions on value-based care and specialty pharmacy metrics, including an executive panel session on metrics and measures moderated by Ashley Ryther, pharmacy supervisor for the pharmacy ambulatory clinical care center at University of Utah Health. The session speakers were health-system executive leaders Denali Cahoon, chief operating officer for Trellis Rx in Atlanta, Georgia; Erin Hendrick, senior vice president at Shields Health Solutions in Atlanta; Thomas M. Renshaw, senior director of business solutions for Acentrus Specialty in Lewisville, Texas; and Angela Ward, senior vice president for AmerisourceBergen in Carrollton, Texas.

The conference’s practitioner and business tracks offered sessions on improving communication and fostering inclusive conversations among patients, caregivers, and colleagues.

Aimee M. Banks, clinical pharmacist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, and Maritza Lew, manager of core clinical systems and informatics at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, California, led a practitioner-focused session on multiple sclerosis from the view of a clinician who is also a patient. Other practitioner-track sessions addressed biosimilars and the pipeline of HIV treatments and gene therapy.

The business track included a session on legal conundrums in specialty pharmacy led by Tara N. Kelley, executive director of specialty pharmacy services at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Jesse C. Dresser, partner at Frier Levitt in Pine Brook, New Jersey.

Other business-track sessions covered financial and billing concerns with pharmacy and medical benefits, care site selection, and specialty pharmacy accreditation.

[This news story will appear in an upcoming issue of AJHP.]

Posted July 16, 2021

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