Consultant Pharmacist 101: How We Help Ambulatory Surgery Centers

Consultant Pharmacist 101: How We Help Ambulatory Surgery Centers

Consultant pharmacists are medication management specialists who work in a variety of settings like ambulatory surgery centers (ASC), senior care facilities (e.g., nursing homes, assisted living facilities) and also by helping individual patients. These pharmacists provide expert advice on pharmaceutical services, patient safety, and drug therapy management.

In a three-part series, we will discuss how a consultant pharmacist can benefit each client and how you can find the right consultant pharmacist for your needs. This month, we’ll focus on how ASCs can enhance patient safety by using an expert consultant pharmacist. In the coming months, this series will also discuss how consultant pharmacists can have a dramatic impact on long-term care facilities and on individual patients’ lives.

Are you partnering with an expert consultant pharmacist?

A consultant pharmacist can either be your greatest asset…or a potential liability. Anyone can call themselves a consultant, but not everyone is expert in their field. As I discussed in “Are you working with a highly qualified consultant pharmacist?“, according to both state and federal agencies, the need for highly qualified and specialized pharmacy consultants has increased in recent years. Healthcare facilities are encouraged to use independently licensed consultant pharmacists by both licensing and accrediting agencies, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC), The Joint Commission (JC) and individual states licensing bodies. Massachusetts, for example, also provides guidance on Choosing a Pharmacy Consultant.

Consultant pharmacists generally specialize in one of the following four categories:

  • Regulatory
  • Quality
  • Technical
  • Clinical

At OctariusRx, our clients experience the benefit of our expertise in all four categories.

How can an ASC benefit from our services?

We provide oversight of pharmaceutical services with a relentless focus on medication management to enhance patient safety, increase survey success and reduce risks and costs.
We provide objective guidance: we work collaboratively with you, and your staff, to enhance medication practices and ensure regulatory compliance while reducing costs. Part of this unique approach is to develop processes to make your organization more efficient and prepared for certification and accreditation surveys.

What services do we offer?

  • We are experts on certification and accreditation standards and will prepare you for and guide you through the survey process.
  • Medication Management: There are many components to medication management and, unfortunately, this leads to many opportunities for patient risk and facility liability. It’s a fact that errors in medication management are a leading cause of malpractice claims. The best way to increase patient safety and reduce facility risks is to work with a highly qualified consultant pharmacist. For the facilities we serve, we routinely provide comprehensive audits of their medication management systems, including reviewing over one hundred different items with a focus on patient safety and regulatory compliance. As so much is at stake, for your patients and for your organization, medication management is not a good place to cut corners to save a few pennies. If you work with a good consultant pharmacist, you’ll not only protect your patients and your facility, you will recoup your investment, many times over, simply by avoiding one patient incident (not to mention how much you will save in liability and survey deficiencies).
  • Benchmarking: Working with a consultant pharmacist is a powerful way for ambulatory facilities to achieve comprehensive benchmarking studies (especially as not all pharmacists have the capability to assist with the process). Do you need help with your facility’s benchmarking process? If you currently have data and need help implementing policies and procedures to improve patient care — or if you need comprehensive benchmarking with guidance to implement changes — let us help you.
  • Safe Injection Practices: Although seemingly straight-forward, implementing and following safe injection practices requires a great deal of expertise, due diligence, and enforcement. Your consultant pharmacist should be a leader in this arena and help you develop and monitor policy and procedures, as well as compliance.An example of following safe injection practices is how vials are accessed in patient care areas: these vials become single patient use only and should be handled accordingly. If you want to use multi-dose vials for multiple patients, they must be prepared in a segregated medication preparation area and labeled properly. Single dose vials, as the name implies, should be used for single doses only. Another example is that when developing your infection control and prevention program, it should be based on nationally recognized guidelines, such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
  • New Drug Updates: The Food and Drug Administration reviews and approves a wide range of medications each year. Keeping up with new approvals, indications and developing tools for medication reconciliation to keep patients safe, is something your consultant pharmacist can and should do. These changes often happen quickly, and ASC’s do not have the staffing or time to keep up. We are constantly vigilant and provide ongoing updates for the facilities we serve.
  • Compounded Drugs: Does your facility use compounded drugs? If so, take steps to protect your patients and let a consultant pharmacist help you do a proper assessment of any outsourcing facility prior to ordering products. Is the pharmacy providing the compounded drugs an FDA registered 503B outsourcing facility? According to a 2019 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, about 11% of hospitals get compounded drugs from sources that are not registered with the FDA. This leads to increased risks to your patients and liability for your facility and staff.
  • High-Alert Medications: When used in error, these drugs carry a higher risk of causing significant patient harm. High alert medications require special attention and a consultant pharmacist can help ensure that happens.Some tips? Post the most recent list and ensure your staff is continuously educated on the contents of the list. Use warning labels for both Look-Alike-Sound-Alike and High-Alert medications. If the labels on the shelf are bent, frayed or in any way hard to read, replace them with fresh and clear versions. As always, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) is a great resource for obtaining a current list of high-alert medications.
  • Look-Alike-Sound-Alike Medications: These medications require special safeguards to reduce the risk of errors and avoid patient harm. A consultant pharmacist can help to make sure you’ve established, and are following, best practices.Some tips? Post your organization’s ‘Look-Alike-Sound-Alike’ list for all staff members to see and refer to, and make sure the list is specific to the medications currently used at your facility. If formulary changes are made, the list should be updated too. You can develop your list based on the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) List of Confused Drug Names.
  • Regulatory Compliance: We provide guidance and support for all aspects of pharmaceutical services. How does regulatory compliance help improve patient safety for ambulatory healthcare facilities? Regulations and standards are almost always developed to ensure optimal care for our patients, however, they are often misunderstood and sometimes applied incorrectly.Working with a consultant pharmacist who is fluent in certification and accreditation standards can go a long way to relieve the amount of work facilities have to take on themselves. A great consultant pharmacist will not only perform audits to ensure compliance, they offer guidance on developing systems to meet regulatory requirements, which ultimately leads to a positive impact on patient care.
  • Policies and Procedures: Are your procedures up to date? Do they follow current standards and best practices? As part of our routine services, we develop and share policies with our facilities to assist them in complying with survey standards. This is another time-consuming area that ASCs often struggle with. It requires a lot of time and effort to constantly develop and update policies and procedures. Having a policy is not enough: compliance is critical. Your consultant pharmacist should routinely help evaluate compliance with stated policies, and this is best accomplished through frequent comprehensive on-site evaluations.
  • Education: Our approach is to use every visit to a facility as an opportunity for staff questions and education. Education doesn’t, and shouldn’t, only happen in a classroom. Education should happen each time your consultant pharmacist visits, and it should be seamless: it can range from answering questions to having a one-on-one learning discussion with a staff member.
  • Drug Shortages/Formulary management: Drug shortages seem to be happening with more frequency, making it difficult for patients, prescribers and facilities. We provide our facilities with suggestions for other ways to obtain medications and therapeutic alternatives. Your consultant pharmacist should be a “go to” resource for you to brainstorm options during drug shortages or to assist with formulary management. Although the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak may impact production, the truth is that overbuying and hoarding of medications will likely also impact availability. The most commonly impacted classes are antibiotics, anesthetics and controlled substances. Is your facility taking the necessary steps to avoid disruptions in patient care? In a recent post, we provided Ten Steps to Dealing with Drug Shortages. To learn more read our blog post, “Ten Steps to Dealing with Drug Shortages“.

The above list is only a sample of the services we provide. For a complete list of services we provide to ASCs, check out our website.

Still want more or do you have questions on any of the items we discussed? Contact us and we’d be happy to answer your questions. We believe all ASC’s should be working with a specialized consultant pharmacist. We offer a free self-assessment you can download from our website. It’s a short questionnaire that allows facilities to evaluate and rate themselves in a few critical areas. It’s completely free and private. Take the quiz, get your results and let us help you address the areas of weakness. The initial consultation is free, so you have nothing to lose.

The Consultant Pharmacists at OctariusRx provide guidance on safe medication management, survey readiness and cost savings to ambulatory healthcare facilities/surgery centers, senior care facilities and pharmacies We also help individual patients optimize their medications to improve their quality of life and save money. Contact us for assistance.


Any health, medical or drug information on the Web Site is for informational purposes only. This information is not intended to be used, and you should not use it, as a substitute for obtaining professional healthcare advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor, a pharmacist or other qualified healthcare provider for professional healthcare advice, diagnosis or treatment for any medical condition.
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