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Even after flipping the final page or finishing your last exam, your education shouldn’t stop. In order to keep practicing at the top of your license, you have to keep learning long after pharmacy school — and learning takes a commitment. It goes beyond the classroom and out into the world beyond. It involves picking up new tricks, discovering new trades, and uncovering new ways that you can serve your community.
Learning isn’t for the faint of heart, though. Almost all states require pharmacists to rack up a certain number of CE credits every year, but only the top pharmacists take what they learn and use it to master their craft.
One independent pharmacist, Alison Haas, has done just that — and she’s on a mission to help others do the same. In her native Jackson Center, OH, Alison fills many shoes. She owns and operates Jackson Pharmacy & Wellness Center, which provides services ranging from MTM to managed care and more. The pharmacy is the only one for miles, which means that patients rely on Alison and her team to provide quality care to Jackson Center’s 1,500-person population.
When she’s not in her own pharmacy, Alison is out in others’, sharing her knowledge and teaching professionals how to use clinical services to elevate their practice.
In this effort, Alison works closely with CPESN USA. She serves as Lead Luminary for CPESN Ohio and was even named the 2021 CPESN USA Luminary-of-the-Year just a few weeks ago. CPESN works to optimize medication practices and implement enhanced services in community pharmacies across the country. This mission isn’t possible without education — and that’s where programs like Flip the Pharmacy and leading voices like Alison come in.
Alison has been a part of Flip the Pharmacy since the start. As she explains it, “Flip the Pharmacy is a practice implementation program that helps pharmacies optimize their workflow so that enhanced services can be more manageable.
Currently, [community pharmacies] are relying on dispensing revenue, but we know that’s not the future of pharmacy. We need to figure out how to provide enhanced services in conjunction with the dispensing process. That’s what Flip the Pharmacy does.”
In other words, Flip the Pharmacy is a continuing education program that gives pharmacies the resources they need to become more clinical over time. Here’s how it works: Pharmacies are picked from an application pool and invited to join a 24-month transformation process that highlights 6 main domains. The domains include:
As Alison explains, “The whole idea of Flip the Pharmacy is to help pharmacies, through coaching efforts, make small changes each month. It’s incremental.” The changes start small, but over time, they make a big difference.
As Lead Luminary, Alison plays a major part in coaching, helping pharmacies across Ohio successfully implement enhanced services. Each month, she zooms in on a different area of clinical care using change packages provided by Flip the Pharmacy. Each change package highlights a different service and offers step-by-step instructions on how to implement it in the pharmacy.
Alison offers an example of how change packages play out: “For instance,” she says, “we’re about to start the section on hypertension progression. To begin with, we’ll assess [a pharmacy’s] med sync program: how many patients do they have enrolled? What’s their goal? Where do they want to get to? Then, we’ll focus on asking for blood pressure readings from med sync patients who have hypertension. We’ll have our goal in mind, and If we don’t reach that goal, we’ll reach out to prescribers to see if we can get there.
So we’re offering a structured, step-by-step process for implementing enhanced services.”
Even if your pharmacy isn’t actively enrolled in Flip the Pharmacy, you can still take advantage of its resources. Change packages are available on the FTP website. The only difference is that personal coaching isn’t included.
To fill in the gap, Alison encourages pharmacies to partner with a neighboring store or to designate someone within their own pharmacy to keep them accountable. Either way, this continuing education opportunity is open for all pharmacies up for the challenge.
For Alison, Flip the Pharmacy — and continuing education — is an investment worth your while. Aside from taking part in clinical initiatives, she recommends taking small steps to start learning and keep learning every day.
For one, she suggests getting involved with local groups, state associations, and national organizations that are working to further independent pharmacy. In addition, she recommends working with student pharmacists, because, as she says, “they’re on the cutting-edge of current events and have great questions to keep you on your toes.”
No matter the project, Alison is passionate about helping pharmacy professionals take the necessary steps to elevate their practices She remarks, “Independent pharmacists are pretty innovative people as it is. It’s just easy in the day-to-day to get sucked into all that’s going on and not be able to implement what you want to do.”
With that being said, though, Alison sees education as a key component of success. Thus, it’s important that you make time for it.
And it’s not just about business. Alison emphasizes that clinical initiatives do the entire community a service. She returns back to a previous example by saying, “When we worked on hypertension progression in past cohorts, we saw so much involvement from the community. We had so many patients come in to get their blood pressure checked. They became more aware of their chronic conditions, and they were willing to ask for help. So it wasn’t just about the business model, but about the impact on the community. And that’s been really cool to see.”
In the eyes of Alison Haas, continuing education isn’t just an investment for you. It’s an investment for your patients — and that’s the best kind.