2013 NPPA Conference Review, Part 1


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

It was mid-August, and professional Pharmacy Buyers from across the country made their annual trek to the desert.  An impressive 298 Total Attendees (280 Pharmacy Buyer Attendees and 18 GPO Attendees), as well as 82 Exhibiting Vendor-Companies and their participating representatives (just over 300), returned to Bally’s Las Vegas’ spacious Platinum Ballroom for the 17th Annual 2013 NPPA Conference, hosted by National Pharmacy Purchasing Association (NPPA), the premier professional organization for Pharmacy Purchasing Professionals.

After a sumptuous Continental Breakfast, the Conference officially opened with a greeting by Conference Moderator Michael J.W. Thomas, CPhT, NPPA’s Event & Editorial Assistant.  Thomas gave the attendees present a rundown on the state of the Association, and what to expect in the coming days of the Conference.  Dale J. Kroll, President/CEO & Editor-In-Chief, was also on hand to welcome the attendees, and give a more in-depth history of the organization.  At one point, he asked the first year attendees to stand and it was clear that over one-third of the attendees were there for the first time (about 88 of the 298 total).  He also thanked the many multi-year attendees for their loyal support.

Mr. Thomas then introduced the Members of the NPPA Advisory Committee, your representatives to the Association.  They are:

Debby Flannery, Pharmacy Purchasing Coordinator, Eisenhower Medical Center, Rancho Mirage, CA;

Deb Harden, Pharmacy Buyer, The Christ Hospital, Cincinnati, OH;

Nina Karl, CPhT, Pharmacy Purchasing Coordinator, St. Patrick Hospital, Missoula, MT;

Vicki Wernes, Pharmacy Buyer, St. Anthony Medical Center, Crown Point, IN;

Leanne Witt, CPhT, Inventory Specialist & 340B Coordinator of Western Region, Mercy Pharmacy Services, Springfield, MO.

These five individuals are available to discuss issues facing NPPA as an Association, and to offer recommendations to the Executive Board to better serve the membership.  If one of them is in your general area, they should be consulted on issues regarding the Association.

Thomas then went on to introduce the candidates for this year’s Outstanding Buyer of the Year Awards, an honor given to three extraordinary NPPA members every year.  A distinctive plaque was provided to each winner, which was presented to each of the awardees by NPPA President Dale Kroll.  The difficult duty of selecting 3 honorees from the 12 nominees was indeed a herculean task, to be sure, but after much deliberation from our panel of judges, the decisions for the 3 top winners were as follows:

1st Place ($1,000 Education/Travel Grant):

Teresa Gunderson, Pharmacy Purchasing Inventory Manager, Mercy Hospital, Springfield, Missouri.

2nd Place ($500 Education/Travel Grant):

Cathy Orlando, CPhT, Pharmacy Purchasing Specialist, Memorial Hospital/University of Colorado Health, Colorado Springs, CO.

3rd Place ($200 Education/Travel Grant):

Rakesh Khandelwal, Senior Procurement Coordinator, MedStar Washington Hospital Center, Washington, DC.

After some quick general information statements, the Conference began with a motivational lecture from one of the best in the business, Dr. Kay K. Potetz, of Speakers Unlimited, from Columbus, Ohio.  Her lecture:  “It’ll Just Take a Minute,” stressed the importance of controlling your own time and not having time control your day.  Her humorous approach to a very stressful facet of every Buyer’s day, positively gave the Buyers important tools to make their days that much more easy to manage.

Next, the “tag-team” presenters of Penelope Castro, Pharmacy Buyer for The Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha Nebraska, and Pamela Bacon, RPh, MBA, Clinical Pharmacy Director at  MedAssets Advisory Solutions, Centennial, Colorado presented an in-depth lecture on “LEAN Principles For Inventory & Multiple Pharmacy Buyer Tasks,” as part of the Conference’s Inventory & Shortages Symposium.  They explained their approach to managing their inventory through a tried and true method created initially by the auto industry.  Their “before and after” photos of their storerooms dramatically demonstrated what an efficient system it could be for any pharmacy.

  Nina Karl, CPhT, Pharmacy Purchasing Coordinator at Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, Montana, and current NPPA Advisory Board Member presented “Pharmacy Inventory Using the Kanban System” as part of the Conference’s Inventory Symposium.  Ms. Karl demonstrated a manual, but efficient system, for those facilities that cannot use the electronic systems from wholesalers, or have to transition more slowly to compensate for the facility’s needs.  Though an older system, Ms. Karl generated a significant amount of questions and feedback from the attendees.

After breaking for a brief snack period, the sessions continued into the afternoon with L. Ross Day, RPh, Director of Pharmacy Business Unit for Novation LLC in Irving, Texas with:  “New Drugs on the Horizon & Impact on Pharmacy Budgets.”  This very important presentation brought the attendees up to speed on not only the news drugs that came out this year, but what to expect in the coming months, with emphasis on the brand-new category of generic biological drugs, or Bio-Similars.  This new category of drug is well-known to past Conference attendees, as we have been alerting our attendees, as well the rest of the membership, that these drugs were going to be a reality for many years; and now the first of these drugs will be hitting the wholesaler shelves as early as the first quarter of 2014.

  Randi Brantner, MBA-HA, CPhT, a former Buyer, now Director of Financial Planning & Analysis at PARA Healthcare Financial Services in Colorado Springs, Colorado conducted the advanced presentation of:  “Pharmacy Purchasing & the Hospital Revenue Cycle – CMS Resources, To Maximize Reimbursement & Ensure Medicare J-Code Compliance.”  Geared for more seasoned Buyers, Ms. Brantner delved into the complex world of the Hospital Billing Cycles, Payment Systems, Regulatory Requirements, and resources to pull from for references.  Though a difficult and complex topic, the attendees present were eager and willing to not only tackle, but absorb the myriad of information given in this presentation.  Ms. Brantner’s presentation was also eligible as one of the Qualifying Pharmacy Law Sessions necessary for pharmacy technician recertification.

After a day of specialized information, the attendees, as well as some vendors who paid a fee, assembled at the Conference’s Attendee Opening Reception in the Sky-View Rooms on the 26th Floor of the hotel.  Here, amidst a gourmet buffet, and an Open Bar, attendees were able to network and mingle in a very relaxed and cordial atmosphere, overlooking a panoramic view of the Las Vegas Strip in the late afternoon hours.  Many took advantage of the of the NPPA logo ice sculpture, supplied by the hotel, for a memorable photo-op with friends and colleagues.  The affair was lively and animated, and, as usual, many attendees stayed to the very end.

Thus day one of the Conference was concluded.

Day 2 started, as did the first day, with a Continental Breakfast Buffet, stocked with a generous assortment of breakfast meats and pastries, as well as eggs, hash browns, and a variety of healthy choices for the attendees to enjoy before they hunkered down for the day’s sessions.

Chris Saboura, RPh, Executive Director, MBA at WellStar Health System, in Marietta, Georgia kicked off the Day Two sessions with another session in the Inventory Symposium, “The Pharmacy Buyer’s Influence on Proper Inventory Control.”  Here, Mr. Saboura did a basic “nuts and bolts” presentation, explaining the terms and concepts, basic for any Buyer’s grasp of Inventory Control.  Mr. Saboura also looked at the importance of inventory and turnovers when it came to pricing and charges, and how too little or too much inventory will affect the department’s bottom line.

For “Preparing for & Surviving a 340B Audit,” John Barnes, CPM, MBA, Senior Director of Contract Services at Apexus/340-B Prime Vendor in Irving, Texas and Binita Patel, PharmD, MS, Director of Inpatient Ambulatory Care/Retail Services at Froedtert Health in Milwaukee, Wisconsin took a two-pronged approach.  Mr. Barnes handled the regulatory hot topics aspect of the latest issues facing hospitals, specifically 340B audits, and handling specialty drugs, while Dr. Patel took the practical approach as a Pharmacy Director who has to deal in real time with a 340B audit.  This double-team effort of the didactic and the practical gave the attendees a better understanding of what they will face with a 340B audit and why.

From here, the attendees adjourned to their individual GPO Breakout Sessions (Group Purchasing Organizations), to hear the latest changes in their pharmacy contracts, and to speak with the Administrators of this service.  Participating GPO’s were Amerinet, MedAssets, Novation, & Premier.

After the lunch break, the attendee were back for the first part of the Conference’s Shortages Symposium.  Two presenters gave their own perspectives on this growing issue:  “Statistics & Internal Management of Drug Shortages,” by Christopher Fortier, PharmD, Manager of Pharmacy Support & OR Services at the Medical University of SC in Medical Center; and Adjunct Assistant Professor of South Carolina College of Pharmacy, Charleston, South Carolina.  He was joined by Susan Nygaard, RPh from Sanford Medical Center Pharmacy in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with her piece on:  “Let’s Spread the Word – Internal Communication of Drug Shortages.”  Again, the two-pronged approach was used, Dr. Fortier took the didactic approach, and Ms. Nygaard the practical applications of communication and shared information.

It was then time for the attendees to meet the 82 Exhibiting Vendor-Companies and their participating representatives in the Vendor Exhibit Hall, where they had the advantage of speaking one-to-one with the vendors they do direct business with, one of the most important sessions at the Conference, as some Buyers do not have this advantage, or do not have sufficient time to interface with them at their worksites.  In some cases, companies were displaying that may not have been familiar to all the Buyers present, so those representatives took the opportunity to introduce their products and services to new potential purchasers of their products. Additionally, national account managers and even company presidents were there to establish personal connections with their customers.  The advantage of this vendor interaction can serve a Buyer well, especially when local sources or contacts are unable to solve day-to-day problems a Buyer may encounter throughout the year.  This interaction with pharmacy vendors is one of the highlights of this convention for the purchasing managers who attend this Conference.

This completes Part 1 of the 17th Annual 2013 Conference Review; look for Part 2 in our next edition of PPO, as well as on our website, sometime in mid-to-late October.  As a reminder, please make sure that, if you are in a state that requires ACPE-accredited CE as a requirement for re-certification, registration, and licensure, you must log your hours into the NABP CPE Monitor Program, a clearinghouse for recording CEs for the entire country.  In addition, do not forget to log your hours with PTCB if you are a Certified Pharmacy Technician, regardless of whether you must report to your state or not.  Instructions for doing both are located in the Member-Only section of our website, PharmacyPurchasing.com.

Click HERE for Part 2 of the 2013 NPPA Conference Review