2013 NPPA Conference Review, Part 2


By Michael J.W. Thomas, CPhT
NPPA Conference Moderator & Event Assistant

This is Part 2 and the conclusion to this year’s NPPA Conference Review (originally published in the October 2013 edition of Pharmacy Purchasing Outlook, the official member-publication of NPPA, the National Pharmacy Purchasing Association).

On Day Three of the 2013 NPPA Conference, and after the full buffet breakfast enjoyed by every attendee each morning, the attendees gathered in the Platinum Ballroom of Bally’s Las Vegas once more for a full day of educational presentations.

Christopher Fortier, PharmD, Manager of Pharmacy Support & OR Services at the Medical University of South Carolina Medical Center; and Adjunct Assistant Professor of SC College of Pharmacy, Charleston, South Carolina gave his second presentation at the Conference, “Repackaging – Barcode Compliance, In-House vs. Outsourcing, & More Practical Tips.”  Here, Dr. Fortier provided a brief primer on repackaging technology, some background on his experiences, in-house, vs. outsourcing, and the use of barcoding to ensure patient safety.  To inject a bit of levity into both this and his previous lecture, Dr. Fortier started each lecture with “real-life” examples of practical reasoning behind the adoption of these technologies, by showing a clip from the A&E Reality Series “Duck Dynasty.”  Though meant as humorous, it did put a topical spin on some very established and frankly stodgy issues, such as distribution technologies.

Next on the agenda, Paula Herrera, CPhT, Pharmaceutical Purchasing Specialist at Rapid City Regional Hospital, Rapid City, South Dakota, and last year’s NPPA Outstanding Buyer of the Year, contributed her knowledge and experience to a very important, but rarely discussed subject, “Vaccines: What to Know as a Pharmacy Buyer.”  Ms. Herrera gave a thorough, in-depth lecture on every commercially available vaccine used in hospitals today, with descriptions on storage and safety.  Moderator Thomas added that her handout should be a required reference in every pharmacy, not just for the Buyer, but available to the entire Pharmacy Staff.  She also provided valuable examples of how temperature vigilance can save or result in thousands of dollars of lost vaccine product when not properly utilized.

During the Lunch Break, invited attendees took advantage of the Hospitality Event sponsored by the Apexus/340B Prime Vendor Program.  During this lunch event, representatives from Apexus conducted a “340B Hot Topics Lunch & Learn” session, bringing those attendees up-to-speed on the latest developments in 340B.  Although not officially part of the Conference CE program, the lecture is still eligible for the Law CE needed for Buyers who must be recertified by PTCB, but do not need ACPE credit as required by certain states.

The final lecture of the day was given by Dante Kazerounian, PharmD, CPh, NPh, Clinical Systems Pharmacist at All Children’s Hospital/Johns Hopkins Medicine, St. Petersburg, Florida, whose topic, “Use of Technology to Manage Inventory” looked at Inventory Management, not as an abstract examination of widgets and units, but as an examination of how Las Vegas manages the movement of goods and services in their casinos.  From that analogy, Dr. Kazerounian made the comparison between casinos and hospitals, and how technology made handling the vast quantities of assets, be it drinks or IV bags, easier to manage.

After another long day of lectures and presentations, the attendees ended the day by adjourning to the Vendor Exhibit Hall across from the Lecture Hall.  There, the attendees could meet the vendors they did not have time to meet the previous day, and to network more with fellow attendees.  As an added perk that day, a “mystery gifter” was assigned to approach attendees and present them with American Express $100 gift cards.  These lucky individuals benefitted from simply being attendees at the Conference that were walking the floor to meet & speak with our supportive Exhibitor-Sponsors on the second day of our Exhibit Hall.  They are as follows:

Debra Barrick, CPhT, Pharmaceutical Buyer Unity Healthcare LLC, Lafayette, IN

Krista Reyes, Pharmacy Supervisor, LPN, Memorial Hospital & Physician Group, Frederick, OK

Andres Barcelo, CPhT, IV Operations Supervisor, Qualitas Pharmacy Services, South Plainfield, NJ

Matt Bogash, Pharmacy Purchasing Coordinator, Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital, Downers Grove, IL

Rena Samodurov, CPhT, Pharmacy Buyer, Rex Hospital, Raleigh, NC

Lisa Hallihan, CPhT, Pharmacy Buyer/Technician, Mt. San Rafael Hospital, Trinidad, CO

Michael Simon, Senior Pharmacy Buyer, St. Vincent Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA

Jennifer Bolte, CPhT, Pharmacy Buyer, The Villages Regional Hospital, The Villages, FL

On Thursday, of the Conference, the Lecture Hall was unusually full for the last day.  Attendees have figured out that the final day is packed with important information to bring back to their job sites, as the previous three had been.

This was driven home by the first lecture of the day, given by Gene Graves, PharmD, MBA, President/CEO at SCA Pharmaceuticals LLC, Little Rock, AR.  His discussion was one of the hottest topic of the Conference, as it dealt with “Rx for Outsourcing of Sterile Compounding, Drug Shortages, & Buyer Stress.”  An issue that has been tearing up the headlines, not only in the professional world, but has caught the attention of the private and political arenas, was one worth the wait until the end.  Dr. Graves discussed the reason behind the increased need for compounding today, both on a supply level and for economics, and the steps needed by every facility to ensure the quality of the products received and safety for their patients.  Dr. Graves also gave a “pep talk” to the Buyers, a much-needed boost after days of lectures.

Next, Brooke Richards, CPhT, Pharmacy Buyer at Goodall Hospital, Sanford, Maine, and an Outstanding Buyer Nominee discussed “Hospital Mergers – The Pharmacy Buyer’s Role.”  Being in the midst of a merger herself, Ms. Brooke shared her experiences with juggling multiple inventories, coordinating with dual staffs, and trying to maintain a semblance of sanity to keep the supply line of drugs running smoothly.

The final session of the Conference focused on an often neglected facet of the Pharmacy Buyer’s opportunities. “Purchasing Opportunities in Long Term Care Pharmacy,” given by John Saliba, RPh, President at Saliba’s Extended Care Pharmacy, Phoenix, Arizona, during which he looked at career opportunities in extra-healthcare facilities, such as Nursing Homes and “Closed Door” Pharmacies, which Mr. Saliba described as a multi-billion dollar industry that is ripe for the picking for any imaginative Pharmacy Buyer.  As a businessperson, Mr. Saliba exposed the attendees to non-traditional career opportunities, and the lucrative options they offer.

Finally, it was the attendees’ turn to speak.  The Conference went into a live version of the online Pharmacy Buyers Forum, from our website, PharmacyPurchasing.com.  Attendees discussed issues important to their specific situations and got immediate feedback from their peers.  The staff of Summerdale Enterprises, Inc., publisher of Pharmacy Purchasing Outlook, and hosts to the NPPA Annual Conferences, then took questions and suggestions from the attendees.  Attendees shared with the Summerdale staff their views on the Conference, how they saw what needed possible improvement, and suggestions on topics for future Conferences.

As a final activity at the Conference, it was announced that three lucky attendees at random were to receive a free hotel night as a final thanks for attending the Conference as an NPPA member and staying at the Conference Headquarter Hotel, Bally’s Las Vegas.  Those winners were:

Bledar Doraci, CPhT, Pharmacy Buyer, IU Health Bloomington Hospital, Bloomington, IN.
Robin Kinsley, CPhT, Pharmacy Purchasing Technician, Bronson Hospital, Battle Creek, MI.
Laura Lancaster, Senior Pharmacy Buyer, Intermountain Healthcare, Midvale, UT.

This concluded another successful NPPA Conference.  Thanks must be given to Event Supervisor Francine Morgano, who, although she was unable to attend, did the legwork setting up the Conference, and was in constant contact remotely by phone and email, with the rest of the NPPA staff onsite, and the Bally’s Conference and Catering Staff, putting out “fires” as they came up.  NPPA President and CEO, Dale Kroll, did some of the “heavy lifting” on site for the Conference, keeping the Conference on keel and acting as Ambassador to the organization, meeting and greeting as many members and attendees as possible.  Jonathan Hewlett, NPPA Office Manager, and Cathy Ravy, a former Pharmacy Buyer and part-time NPPA staffer provided onsite support for attendees, as also did the Convention Services Support Staff who have been with us for the past few years.

Attendees are reminded to check your CEs earned from this Conference with NABP’s CPE Monitor Program, the national clearinghouse for all states requiring ACPE-accredited education hours.  The CPE Monitor will transfer your hours submitted by ProCE to your respective states to ensure you have the proper credits for your state’s recertification, re-licensure, and/or re-registration.  If your credits have not been transferred to CPE Monitor, it is imperative that this issue be followed up, by contacting ProCE, CPE Monitor, or both.

Those attendees who do not need ACPE credits for their state, and are Certified Pharmacy Technicians, should log your CEs with PTCB in your personalized myPTCB space on their website.  By logging them in advance of your recertification, you are assured they will be there when it again comes time for your recertification.

No sooner had we packed our bags and headed back West, NPPA was already in the process of organizing the 2014 NPPA Annual Conference.  NPPA will return to Las Vegas, for another 4 days of education, networking, and fun.  Set your calendars for August 18-21, 2014.

In late December, early January, NPPA will announce a “Call For Speakers,” along with a list of topics as suggested by member polls and by the NPPA Advisory Committee.  If a subject you wish to present is not in that list, please suggest it. As previously mentioned, the Best Buyer Practices Sessions is, in this writer’s opinion, is the most important session at the Conference.  Here, and only here, are presentations given for Pharmacy Buyers, by Pharmacy Buyers, in a friendly, non-intimidating venue.  New speakers can give a 15-20 minute presentation on a subject passionate to them.  The upside: the speaker gets experience and confidence to try a more lengthy discussion in future Conferences while NPPA builds its Speaker Bureau.  The Speaker is compensated for their time and effort, the minimum being a comped Registration Fee, the most; well, it can be very attractive.  The downside: there is no downside.  It is a “win” for the Buyer, it is a “win” for NPPA, and it is a “win” for the membership, as peer education is networking in its purest sense.  Please consider offering your experience and expertise at next year’s Conference.

Lastly, do not make attending next year’s Conference a last-minute decision.  Planning to attend now reaps many, many benefits.  By registering on the Early Bird rate when they are announced next year, there can be a savings of hundreds of dollars than if you were to register later on.  By budgeting for your hotel stay now, it will not hurt as much when it is time to attend.  The rate goes up slightly next year, which is still significantly lower than the triple digit rates charged by other conventions.  Airfares, also an “X” factor, can be researched, and booked as early as possible.  The earlier you book your flight, the more attractive your airfare could be.  Moreover, by planning now, you can take advantage of the various incentives offered to offset the expense of attending the Conference.  Visit the Member Incentives page on the NPPA website, and see what opportunities are available for a savvy Pharmacy Buyer to finance their Conference.  Members who have taken advantage of these incentives have more than paid for their Conference by participating.

Pharmacy Buyers continue to tell us that when they return to their work sites after a conference, they experience a rejuvenating lift from their attendance and interaction with dozens of their peers that extends well into the weeks that follow.  If you have not experienced that yet by attending, make sure you do next time.

The NPPA Conferences are presented for your best benefit:  Educational Opportunities, Social Opportunities, Networking Opportunities.  Where every smart Pharmacy Buyer in the country steps up to seize these opportunities and be there.  Will you?

Click HERE for Part 1 of the 2013 NPPA Conference Review