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May 17, 2021

All Health System Pharmacy Metrics ARE NOT Created Equal

Podcast Episode 6


When you invest in technology, you have high hopes that successful adoption will lead to improved pharmacy performance. But, how do you measure successful adoption? How can you be sure your technology is making a difference? Learn how aligning with your technology partner on key clinical, operational, and business metrics at the outset of the project can set you up for long-term success.



Ken Perez, Vice President, Healthcare Policy and Government Affairs, Omnicell

Guest experts:

  • Charles F. McCluskey III, PharmD, MBA, BCPS, System Vice-President Pharmacy Services, OhioHealth
  • James Nelson, MBA, Manager of Pharmacy Informatics, OhioHealth

Charles F. McCluskey III, PharmD, MBA, BCPS

System Vice-President Pharmacy Services

James Nelson, MBA

Manager of Pharmacy Informatics

Episode Highlights

Why is having a shared strategic vision essential for success of a technology project?

Charles McCluskey: There are two key points here. First, socialize the plan – what the idea is, why this is a good plan, and how this change is going to positively impact the organization.

Second, gather different perspectives. Engage the stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, and the executive team. They help shape the plan. Just as important, as the plan begins to develop, the stakeholders help own and execute the plan.

Think of it as building a launch pad. Everybody on the pad should know what they're doing, where they're going, why they're doing it, and how they're going to get there. Minimizing confusion allows the work to move faster and to higher levels of execution.

Is it too soon to talk about metrics during the strategic vision phase of a project?

James Nelson: Not at all. The first step is understanding what you want to get out of the technology. That’s your North Star, your project guide. It could be a simple mission statement that gets to the heart of the business problem that you’re trying to solve.

From there you work backward with stakeholders, sponsors, leadership, and ultimately, also the frontline staff. You want to understand and assess what current state metrics are, and also what the future state could ultimately be.

By tying the current and future states together, you're able to connect the messaging with the metrics, which becomes very important, not only on the implementation, but also as you continue to progress.

Many leaders use metrics to effectively communicate project progress and success. What strategies should leaders consider when developing these metrics?

Charles McCluskey: It's important to tie metrics to the organization, and to connect those with the audience. Keep in mind you have different metrics for different audiences. For instance, the metrics you share with your senior executive team is more than likely different than the metrics managed within the departments.

The KPIs should allow the leadership to know whether you are achieving what we set out to accomplish. Those metrics should speak for themselves. They should resonate immediately with the executive team. That’s very important.

Remember, you don't have to be the expert in this space. Leverage your partners. Ask your technology partners about metrics that other health systems have successfully used. And then you can decide whether to include those.

As a project leader, what’s your approach to metrics development for a new technology project?

James Nelson: First, you need to understand current state baseline. You can determine current state by interviewing stakeholders and customers regarding the currently used reports and metrics, and then you scrutinize them to understand whether they are qualitative or quantitative and their overall purpose.

Next, you want to understand what the technology vendor is bringing to the table. What reports and metrics are available out of the box, and will they satisfy your needs. Lean on your vendors; they are the experts in that technology.

With these two lists in hand, you're able to crosswalk them to really understand what metrics are available, and what you need to focus on and to prioritize what’s most important versus what is routine.

Further, it’s essential to ensure that the underlying methodologies and assumptions of the future state reporting are sound and aligned with the project’s key stakeholders.

For example, we were working on a new perpetual inventory project. The future state valuations were much different than the Finance-approved valuation process we had been using. We had to adjust the calculations behind the new project metrics in order to align on the organization’s approved methodologies.

How do you use metrics with health system leadership?

Charles McCluskey: The C-suite and the senior executive team are resources to leverage in the overall success. When communicating with this team, you should provide a concise, clear understanding of the project. If the project is not performing as scheduled, call out those gaps.

As the chief pharmacy officer, the organization looks to you to own the business. That doesn't mean you actually have to solve every problem. But there will be times you will need to lean into conversations with the C-suite, such as when help is needed to get a project back on track.

Metrics help set that stage of where you are and where you need to be. It might highlight barriers, or it may help to reset the expectations within the organization.

How do you measure technology adoption?

James Nelson: A favorite method of mine is an anonymous, post-implementation user survey. One of the areas we focus on is users’ perceptions of operations, of workflow, of accuracy, and so forth. That helps us to tie into users’ understanding of the reason for the new process and new technology, and how successful we were in creating a shared vision of the project.

For example, for a perpetual inventory project, we asked users how confident they were in the accuracy of the new perpetual inventory system. The responses we received were in the range of 50% to 60%. The data showed that the new system was closer to 80% accurate.

That user perception data provided two opportunities: First, an opportunity to educate frontline staff on the actual improvement. Second, it also showed we were outperforming our own perceptions.

The lesson to me is that having quantitative data and KPIs are important. But no less important is objectively measuring the satisfaction of the frontline staff and their understanding of the “why” behind the project.

Any project has the potential to go sideways. Should that happen, what do you do?

Charles McCluskey: As an example – and I think we all learn more from situations when things don’t go according to plan – when an initiative that I was leading went sideways, I leaned into the work, pulled in a small group of people to lean into the work with me. And despite best efforts, we had to deploy the senior executive team.

The best advice I got from that experience was, the bigger the problem the bigger the spotlight.

Leaders aren’t measured by the challenges they have. We all have challenges. The true measure is how a leader responds to an adverse situation.

The leader must use the metrics, have those difficult conversations, and pull in the right people in order to get the project back on track.


The Future of Pharmacy Podcast is produced and distributed by Pharmacy Podcast Network. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of the position of any entity other than the author(s). These views are always subject to change, revision, and rethinking at any time and may not be held in perpetuity.

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