Care Transformation Center Blog

The growing role of the pharmacy technician

by Samm Freedman

The pharmacy technician is no longer an employee who merely dispenses medications. As hospital-based pharmacies take on more responsibility for medication management and clinical care outcomes, pharmacy leaders are giving technicians increased responsibilities in both the inpatient and outpatient settings.

The untapped potential of the technician

In the past, pharmacy technicians supported the pharmacist in dispensing medications accurately and efficiently through organizing and stocking medications, identifying drug-drug interactions, and answering patient questions.

However, today the pharmacy technician's role has expanded above and beyond these entry-level duties. Pharmacy technicians now commonly ensure that every step, from prescription drop-off to medication dispensing to patient follow-up services, runs seamlessly. Their work minimizes medication errors at transitions of care, strengthening the hospital's commitment to population health. In this new role, pharmacy technicians:

  • Take medication histories at admission and perform medication reconciliation at transitions of care
  • Follow up with patients post-discharge to ensure medications are picked up or refilled
  • Communicate with providers to promote high-quality, low-cost medications
  • Resolve insurance issues with payers
  • Take charge of inventory management and behind-the-scenes pharmacy operations

More responsibility leads to more demand

This expanded role, along with increasing patient and provider reliance on pharmacy services, is driving demand for pharmacy technicians nationwide. Pharmacy technician employment is expected to increase 9% from 2014 to 2024, a faster than average occupational growth rate.

The widening breadth of responsibility also comes with a push for higher education and certification standards. Today, 45 states and DC require registration, licensure and/or certification, such as certification from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or the National Healthcareer Association. In the push for national standards, PTCB will raise their standards for certification in 2020 to include mandatory background checks, participation in an accredited training program, and more rigorous continuing education (CE) programs for recertification. The advanced certification requirements reflect the increasing duties and depth of knowledge necessary in the field.

For more updates on the expanded pharmacy technician role and other changes that hospital-based pharmacies are making to realize improved quality and financial outcomes, stay tuned to the Pharmacy Executive Forum.

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