Accelerating Innovation to Advance Pharmacy Practice

By Jason Wong posted 09-22-2017 14:46

​In a rapidly evolving healthcare environment, pharmacists working in both acute and ambulatory settings must strive to adopt a future-focused mindset to ensure medication use will be optimal, safe, and effective for all people all of the time. Pharmacy leaders spanning the nation must constantly seek a competitive advantage without disrupting daily operations such as coming to consensus on best practice strategies for practice advancement. With the advent of new technologies and automation, along with laws and regulations supporting pharmacists as direct patient care roles, pharmacists have the platform to capitalize on opportunities to advance patient care.

In John Kotter’s Harvard Business Review article, Accelerate, he mentions, companies do not identify the most important hazards and opportunities early enough, formulate creative strategic initiatives nimbly enough, and implement them fast enough.1 In response, he recommends a company implement a “second operating system” focused on the design and implementation of strategy to continually assess the business, industry and the organization, and reacts with greater adaptability than the existing one.

Using the framework Kotter has outlined, I encourage pharmacy leaders create a team of motivated volunteers (e.g., pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, nurses, business office) within their organization for the purpose of identifying innovative ways to advance pharmacy practice . I will refer to this team as PI’s (Pharmacy Innovators). What I foresee is an organization’s PI team implemented to complement the traditional hierarchy within an organization. The job of the PI team would be to actively assess current pharmacy practice and identify innovative opportunities that leverage the skill sets of pharmacists in unconventional ways. Like strategy, innovation is a dynamic force that should follow the ongoing process of “searching, doing, learning, and modifying”.

To create an innovative culture, pharmacy leaders can consider the following five points:

  1. Praise innovation – Innovation only comes by invitation. Pharmacy leaders should encourage pharmacists throughout the organization to surface ideas on how to advance practice without the fear of feeling like an idea was unwarranted.
  2. Implement a PI team – Innovation is team based (profession or organization specific). With the support of senior leadership, the PI team can foster cross-functional creativity, trust, and collaboration that bring innovation to life.
  3. Practical improvement science – Encourage the PI team to put their ideas to test. Regardless of outcome, active learning is occurring when innovative ideas are put to test.
  4. System-wide support – Innovative ideas and behavior should be supported from senior leadership to new-hire pharmacists. Over time, active involvement spanning the hierarchy will lead to practice advancement.
  5. Spontaneous innovation – Innovation comes when least expected. Pharmacy leaders should resist the urge to project manage their innovation efforts by focusing on deadlines and timelines. Encourage the PI team to meet and discuss ideas but allow for fluidity when implementing change.


  1. Kotter, John P. Accelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-moving World. Harvard Business Review Press, 2014.

Thank you,
Jason T. Wong
PGY2 Health-System Pharmacy Administration Resident
Oregon Health & Science University