How Do I Become a Pharmacy Technician?

You may be wanting to enter the medical field, and wondering what kinds of positions will allow you to work without requiring formal education. If this describes you, then working as a pharmacy technician may be your answer. If you are interested in what the prerequisites are for working as a pharmacy technician, rest assured that you do not have to undergo any formal training. You do not need to study for four years in college. You just have to have your high school diploma, and then you can start the application to be registered and pay the necessary fees.

Depending on the laws of the particular geographical location, there may be an examination that you need to pass. Once you pass this test, you become a certified pharmacy technician. However, there are certain states that do not require you to be certified, and will just need you to have a high school diploma. In these cases however, it would still be advantageous if you have certification. Being certified can get you a higher paying job faster. Also available are pharmacy technology programs of 1-2 years’ duration that you can enroll yourself into. This will give you enough knowledge on how to do your work effectively with regards to patient safety.

A pharmacy technician works collaboratively with the pharmacist and pharmacy aides to ensure that the correct medications are given to patients. His/her primary function is to fill-in data for a prescription, including the patient’s personal and medical data. S/he needs to pay attention to details because entering the wrong information may cause harm to a patient. He/she will be the one to verify whether the data on the prescription is correct or not. In a small retail pharmacy, the pharmacy technician may also be the person behind the counter, receiving payments from customers and giving them their change. Presently, the role of a pharmacy technician is expanding and now also includes the ordering, storing, preparation and packaging of medications. Sometimes, their responsibilities include giving instructions to patients on how to take their medication. As such, the job of a pharmacy technician is becoming more and more important.

The hourly rate for pharmacy technicians ranges from $8-$16. In hospitals, their average annual wage may be as high as $32,400. The difference in salary depends on what type of employer you work for. Drugstores, pharmacies, other retail locations, and hospitals all offer different ranges in salary. You may want to look through a wide range of job postings across different types of employers to see which ones pay higher.

Although many employers do not require that you have certification, it would be an asset that would give you an edge compared to the other applicants. If you are interested in enrolling yourself in a pharmacy education program, but are busy too busy with work to take courses at a school, there are various online courses you can take in the comfort of your own home. In online career training, you can enroll in a pharmacy technician program with less tuition fees compared to those charged by traditional schools. Online courses allows for much more flexibility in terms of learning schedule, something you may desperately need if you’re working full-time and can’t afford to quit and go to school full-time. Some online programs even offer one-on-one online teaching so you can ask questions and get answers.

Online programs give you the foundation you need in order to enter and process medical prescriptions. You will learn about the terminology and abbreviations in the field of medicine, and learn how to calculate the correct drug doses based on the particular patient’s conditions. You will also be taught the ethics associated with working in this industry, for example the importance of patient data confidentiality. Some programs also offer students the opportunity of internship at affiliated retail pharmacies where they can get valuable hands-on experience in working with pharmacists. Because of these benefits, it is recommended that you look into the option of online pharmacy technician programs in more detail.

The projected outlook for the employment of pharmacy technicians is expected to grow by 32 percent up to year 2020. Because of the advancement of medicines to treat different diseases, the need for the human workforce to deliver these medications is expanding. Also, there is a growing number of aging people whose needs for medication will increase with their age. This is why more pharmacy technicians are needed, and why they are given more responsibilities than before.

If you are interested in becoming a pharmacy technician, it is never too late to make a career change. With the rising demand for pharmacy technicians, you may land yourself a stable job provided that you have are certified and are capable in delivering the correct medications with correct dosages to the correct patients.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Tele-Pharmacy

How it Works

A Tele-pharmacy dispenses medicine to the patient after the prescription of the patient has been processed by a registered pharmacist from home or from another pharmacy location. The tele-pharmacy is equipped with video cameras so that the pharmacy technician can be supervised by a registered pharmacist. The location of the remote pharmacy is often linked to central pharmacy software to make this process smother and ensure timely and correct delivery.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of A Tele-Pharmacy

This concept for delivering medicines through a tele-pharmacy is being tested for operation in remote areas as well as in emergency and urgent care facilities. The main aim of tele-pharmacies is to provide maximum coverage in areas with few pharmacies and increase the revenue for pharmacy operators.

The major advantage of a tele-pharmacy is that it provides the much-needed consultation for patients living in remote areas. In the absence of any pharmacy in these areas, patients lose access to vital health care services, which leads to medication errors, drug overdose, and adverse reactions due to multiple drug interactions. Even though pharmacists are not physically present in their area, patients can access consultation with a registered pharmacist and get their prescription verified through video conferencing.

The second advantage of a tele-pharmacy is that it is highly cost-effective. With the rising pay scale of pharmacists, it might not be financially viable to support a full pharmacy in all rural areas. Thus hiring a single pharmacist for multiple areas can save the pharmacy thousands of dollars each year.

The third advantage is customer satisfaction, especially people living in remote areas. Earlier, these patients had no access to a pharmacy near them and could not afford the medication from other areas.

The main disadvantage of a tele-pharmacy lies in the lack of complete control in dispensing medications for the patients. Although the pharmacy technicians at these pharmacies are supervised by a registered pharmacist at all times, there is still the risk of violation of regulations. The use of unauthorized drugs or dispensing of drugs without proper prescription is hard to control compared to regular pharmacies.

Another factor that is proving to be a hurdle in promoting more tele-pharmacies is that most places in the United States have not yet adapted to the concept of tele-pharmacies. It will be a challenging and time-consuming task to review the laws and set up rules and regulations for tele-pharmacy operations in all the states in the coming years.

Points To Consider Before Setting Up A Tele-Pharmacy

Setting up a tele-pharmacy is different from setting up regular pharmacies or drug stores. It has to function under the laws of the state, and a license program must be in place. Second, trained pharmacy technicians have to be hired who are aware of the rules and regulations. Third, the inventory has to be adequately managed to make sure that while the vital medications are in stock, the pharmacy is not overstocked with drugs that are not much in demand.

The need of a tele-pharmacy in a particular area has to be first established. Physicians and other medical workers have to be notified of the availability of these services to make sure it is fully utilized.

Niche Pharmacies and Prescription Drug Fee Reimbursement in the Texas Workers’ Compensation System

One of the current trend issues in medical fee dispute resolution circles is pharmacy reimbursement. Niche pharmacies have entered the Texas workers’ compensation market. These pharmacies only market and provide services to injured workers. They do not fill prescriptions for non-workers’ compensation patients. Some are national retailers to injured workers, and others are more local, servicing their surrounding communities. Regardless of their size and the scope of their market(s), they are all dealing with one common fee dispute in Texas – a proxy for the pharmacy’s usual and customary fee.

The maximum allowable reimbursement (MAR) for prescription drugs is set by Division Rule 134.503(a). Under the Rule, the MAR is the lesser of:

1. The provider’s usual and customary charge;

2. A formula based on average wholesale price, a modifier and a dispensing fee;

or,

3. a negotiated or contract price.

If there was a negotiated or contract price, then there would be little need for litigation over a single prescription bill. The recent cases being set before the Division are disagreements over a pharmacy’s usual and customary charges. The pharmacies are billing an amount greater than the formula-based MAR so that the formula-based MAR is paid in every case.

There are many factors in establishing the price of a product – some unique to the workers’ compensation system. In Medical Dispute Resolution case number M4-02-5033-01, the pharmacy argued that it had to factor into its price the unique aspects of: verification that claims relate to compensable workplace injuries, identification of insurers providing coverage and their adjustors, the preparation and submissions of manual claims forms, verification of eligibility for compensation, and the extension of credit pending payment by insurers that is not required until sixty days after the submission of “clean claims.” Considering that the formula-based MAR uses modifiers ranging from 1.09 to 1.25 with only a $4.00 dispensing fee, it can be easy to see how usual and customary prices can be established that exceed the formula-based MAR.

If these cases involved large pharmacies with high volume non-workers’ compensation services, then the operating costs of providing workers’ compensation-related services would be offset by the efficiency and volume of the non-workers’ compensation-related services. Prices would probably tend to be lower in that scenario. But that is not the case with these niche pharmacies marketing only to injured workers. The only way they can get reimbursement is to navigate complex reimbursement systems that require more sophisticated knowledge, greater manpower and longer delays of payment than non-workers’ compensation systems.

Regardless of the justification (or lack thereof) of the prices established by these niche pharmacies, it is not why the pharmacy charges a particular amount, but whether it can establish that it does usually charge a particular amount that is important. Rule 134.503(a) specifically provides that one of the comparison measures for the selection of the MAR value for prescription drugs is the provider’s usual and customary price. The question is not whether the usual and customary price charged is justified. The question is whether the price charged is in fact usual and customary; is it the regular price charged by that provider?

This is the crux of the dispute in these cases. In non-workers’ compensation situations, many of the larger national pharmacies have negotiated contract prices well below the Texas formula-based MAR. These niche pharmacies that only provide services to injured workers have not. So insurance companies are seeing workers’ compensation providers obtaining a higher reimbursement for a particular prescription than it usually pays in non-workers’ compensation situations. This led to attempts to curb these niche pharmacy’s fee reimbursements.

There is only one Medical Contested Case Hearing so far on this issue, reported as Medical Contested Case Hearing Number 10169, and it went through the system as Tracking Number M4-07-4069-01. In this case, the carrier made a partial reimbursement and urged two main reasons why additional reimbursement should not be paid.

First, the carrier had to make some type of reimbursement as there was no dispute over medical necessity. The carrier had negotiated a contract price with another pharmacy or pharmacy clearing house and paid the amount it would have had to pay under that contract. The carrier then argued that the clearing house’s price is a good proxy for the niche pharmacy’s usual and customary price simply because the clearing house has contracted with other pharmacies to pay less than the niche pharmacy’s price. So the carrier argued that the usual and customary price it pays should be the measure for MAR, not the provider’s usual and customary charge.

Secondly, the carrier attempted to use Texas Labor Code Section 415.005 as a bar to additional reimbursement. That section provides that a health care provider commits a violation if the person charges an insurance carrier an amount greater than that normally charged for similar treatment to a payor outside the workers’ compensation system, except for mandated or negotiated charges. The carrier argued that if the pharmacy cannot show what it charges outside of the workers’ compensation system, then it has not proven its usual and customary charge and would not be owed any additional reimbursement. Being a niche pharmacy, only providing services to injured workers, the pharmacy could not show charges outside of the workers’ compensation system. Of course this begs the question: why did the carrier pay anything at all in the first place? If the argument is that (1) a failure to prove usual charges outside of the workers’ compensation system means there is no usual and customary charge established, (2) which means there can be no determination of whether usual and customary or the formula-based MAR is the lesser charge, so (3) no reimbursement is owed, then no reimbursement would have been owed in the first place.

Judge Cole wrote an opinion that tracked the plain language of the law. He found that there is no provision requiring the pharmacy to establish the usual and customary charge for the prescriptions filled for customers outside of the workers’ compensation system if the pharmacy does not fill prescriptions outside of the workers’ compensation system. Likewise, under the Act and Rules, there is no provision allowing a carrier to substitute a proxy’s charge as the usual and customary charge. There are only three methods to establish the proper reimbursement under the Rule. Allowing a carrier to make up a fourth method is not one of the three methods. The only requirement under Rule 134.503(a) is that the pharmacy establish its own usual and customary charge. Some other pharmacy’s usual and customary charge is not relevant.

Texas Labor Code Section 415.005 is being interpreted to be a comparison of one provider’s own charges inside and outside of the workers’ compensation system. It is not a measure of one provider’s charges inside the system to other provider’s charges outside of the workers’ compensation system. This is a significant distinction in this opinion.

Additionally, Texas Labor Code Section 415.005 addresses the multi-jurisdictional issues that arise with national workers’ compensation pharmacies. These pharmacies may charge a different rate in some states than others because of varying fee schedules. For instance, in New Jersey there is a law forbidding a health care provider from demanding or requesting any payment in excess of those permitted in the fee schedule (N.J.A.C. 11:3-29). That system is not like the Texas system that allows a usual and customary billing that is reduced to the proper fee schedule amount by the insurance carrier. Section 415.005 protects providers in Texas who also provide services in other states for a mandated fee – the lower fees billed in other states due to fee guidelines do not affect the calculation of the Texas provider’s usual and customary charges.

The end result is that we now know that the Rule means what it says: if a pharmacy can show that it has billed its usual and customary charge for a prescription drug, then it will be paid that amount, or the formula-based MAR, whichever is less.