Oncology Rounds

Infusion center insights: A close look at pharmacy staffing

by Rebecca Howland

This is part of a weekly series on results from our 2015 national benchmarking survey on infusion center volumes, staffing, and operations. Make sure you’re subscribed to follow along.

60% of infusion centers have a dedicated pharmacist, pharmacy technician, or both who are responsible for mixing chemotherapy. These dedicated pharmacy staff lead to faster chemo turnaround times for patients. Read on to learn more about pharmacy staffing and operations at peer institutions.

By the numbers: Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians

Of infusions centers with dedicated staff, most programs have both a pharmacy technician and a pharmacist dedicated to the infusion center. 12% employ only pharmacists or only pharmacy technicians.

Typical center has 1 pharmacist per 21 daily patients

Infusion centers have a median of 3 pharmacy staff members dedicated to the infusion center. They have a median of 1.9 pharmacists and 1.8 pharmacy technicians. The median cancer program has one pharmacist for every 21 daily infusion center patients and one pharmacy technician for every 24 daily patients.

Pharmacy technicians mix chemo at most organizations

In most cases, pharmacy technicians are involved in mixing chemotherapy. 39% of respondents have both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians mixing chemo, while another 39% have only pharmacy technicians involved. A fifth of programs (19%) have only pharmacists mixing chemo and 2% have only RNs mixing chemo. Freestanding cancer centers are the only respondents that use RNs for chemo mixing.

Dedicated pharmacy staff lead to quicker turnaround times

Our survey asked respondents to tell us the average length of time from the moment the pharmacy is asked to begin mixing chemotherapy until the patient begins the infusion. The median response was 30 minutes—regardless of whether the infusion center employs dedicated pharmacy staff or not. However, when we look at the average amount of time, it’s not surprising to see that infusion centers without dedicated pharmacy staff have a longer turnaround time.

We know that not everyone can have a pharmacist dedicated to oncology. To learn how Yale has extended its pharmacists’ capacity using telehealth, check out our blog post.

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