SPOKANE – The WSU College of Pharmacy added a final speaker on April 14 to its Preparing for Your Career in Pharmacy Seminar Series. The speaker, a health care administrative management expert and a registered pharmacist, spoke to students about how recent health care reform is creating leadership opportunities for pharmacists.

Ron Schleif, R.Ph., MBA, is the president of Oncology Reimbursement Management (ORM), a specialized health care consulting company that works with health care providers, insurance companies, pharmaceutical and biotech companies, distributors, and other stakeholders in order to maximize patient access to cancer treatment. According to the company’s website, “ORM focuses its efforts exclusively within oncology pricing, access, and reimbursement.”

Schleif has over 30 years of experience in health care. After graduating from the WSU College of Pharmacy in 1976, he spent five years as a practicing pharmacist. He then spent 25 years with the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company. He created Lilly Oncology’s first global strategic plan, and helped create and lead the Six Sigma initiative at Lilly.

Schleif lectured over the lunch hour to Doctor of Pharmacy students about how health care payment strategies are evolving and the position that pharmacists are in to take a leadership role as a result of those changes. Schleif discussed the implications on the future of health care, where providers will act as the “gatekeepers” to care.

“Right now it’s the payers,” Schleif said. Essentially, insurance companies tell health care providers what services they will pay for and what ones they won’t. According to Schleif, the current model of fee-for-service promotes volume over quality of care, and encourages perverse incentives that are causing unsustainable growth in health care spending.

“The U.S. has 50 percent higher spending on prescription drugs compared to other countries,” Schleif said.

The Affordable Care Act is the first legislation in 50 years to make substantial changes to the nation’s health care delivery system. A system that is so complex, Schleif said, no single act will achieve the needed changes to “fix” the system.

“There is not enough data for decisions makers to know what direction to take the health system in, but we’re beginning to compile it,” Schleif said.

As health care spending increases, alternative care solutions are being tested. In order for insurance companies to drive down costs, risk is being pushed back onto physicians in terms of determining best course of treatment for the individual, as opposed to which course of treatment is best covered by insurance.

“Subject matter experts will be needed to help make these decisions that physicians don’t have to make under the current system,” Schleif said, and pharmacists are already experts on subject matter like specialty technology and targeted drug agents.  As a result of our increased biological and genetic understanding, the amount of new technology that will come onto the market in the near future is huge. There is no one better to assess best drug delivery per individual patient than a pharmacist, said Schleif.

“Before the end of this decade there will be a lot of real-world data available that will enable comparative analysis when it comes to drug treatment decisions. Pharmacists are in the best position to do any of this in terms of drug delivery, which is what you [pharmacy students] are being trained to do,” Schleif said.

“It’s up to you,” Schleif said to the students. “Keep your eyes wide open [to opportunity], take a broader view and decide to lead.”

The WSU College of Pharmacy hosts this series of lectures focusing on third-year pharmacy students. Speakers in this series will provide students with their vision for how the profession is evolving and the opportunities that exist for future pharmacists to change and advance the practice of pharmacy.

The seminar series, which was initiated by the dean of the College in 2012, is coordinated and hosted by the WSU College of Pharmacy. Lunch was provided to students by the Spokane Teachers Credit Union.