Since Todd Karpinski took on his first job as a fourteen-year-old pharmacy technician decades ago, a lot has changed. Drug prices have increased tremendously, treatments have improved dramatically, and pharmacy departments in health systems have elevated themselves to be a driving force for safety, quality, and cost-savings.
Today, Karpinski is a long way from the local drug store he started at. He serves as chief pharmacy officer at West Virginia University Medicine (WVU Medicine), where he stands at the forefront of the next evolution in his field and is helping to solve some of pharmacy services’ most pressing challenges. Behind his groundbreaking work is a patient-centered philosophy that followed the leader through every stage of his career.
“In the beginning, I was interested in the use of medicine to improve people’s health, and I still think that you’ll always be successful if you put patients first,” he says. “Quality of care and keeping people safe is job number one.”
That’s been the impetus behind initiatives he has spearheaded to improve the way WVU Medicine serves its patients. One of those efforts has involved planning for a new pharmaceutical warehouse in Morgantown, which is pending approval from the board of directors with hopes of opening in 2024. Karpinski says the facility would address one of the health system’s biggest headaches: drug shortages.
“At any given time, there are over two hundred medications that are on shortage that we either can’t attain at all, that we have to seek out alternatives for, or we have to spend a lot of money to get,” he says. “This warehouse will allow us to create some space, so that when we identify potential shortages, we can buy additional product, have it on hand, and be able to use it when needed. It’ll also allow us to centralize medication stock and reallocate drugs in our hospital system where they are needed most.”
The warehouse will use inventory technology that will provide insight into how much of each drug is at the warehouse, at each hospital location, and where the products are as they move through the system’s internal supply chain. It’ll also include high-speed packaging technology that will help store the medicine in a more efficient manner. He predicts that the warehouse will help reduce added costs from drug shortages by $600,000, saving the system’s clinics about $2 million and more.
Another area of focus for the leader has been the Peak Health insurance plan, an offering owned by WVU Medicine that aims to “improve the quality of care while reducing the administrative burden and cost of care.”
“The whole intention is to be both the payer and the provider, cutting out insurance companies and being able to offer this to our employees and dependents then move into the Medicare market,” Karpinski explains. “The biggest benefit we have is that we have an electronic medical record system and have insight not only into the financial and medical claims generated but also the clinical management of our patients and the clinical conditions—all integrated into one system.”
Karpinski’s partners are quick to acknowledge the efficiency of his strategies. “Todd understands the importance of ensuring WVU Medicine takes advantage of every 340B program savings opportunity while staying compliant,” says George Puckett, CEO of Verity Solutions. “Under his leadership, WVU Medicine has saved millions to invest back into patient care. Verity Solutions has been proud to partner with WVU Medicine.”
Before coming to WVU, Karpinski served in a variety of leadership roles, including as operations manager, assistant director, director of pharmacy, and more. In those roles, he got a chance to work with and learn from other executives who helped prepare him for where he is today.
“I learned that ability to collaborate and to help meet shared strategic goals, which has been very has been very important in the pharmacy department, which aligns its goals with the overall system,” he says. “That’s why when we start off and ask for new programs, its important to measure the results as you implement and execute things. Six months or so down the road, you have to report back to the folks who gave you the resources and say, ‘You gave me this much to create this project and it’s saved us that much money.’”
Today, Karpinski prides himself on being not only a leader with a patient-centered philosophy, but also a youth advocate who wants to see the next generation of leaders succeed. He advises them to be adaptable to change.
“Healthcare changes so fast,” he says. “You need to be ready to implement the backup plan or the back up to the backup plan. Just keep working towards your goals knowing you’ll have adversity along the way.”
The Next Generation of Pharmacists
Rising costs isn’t the only challenge Todd Karpinski navigates daily. He and his colleagues are worried by the downward spike of enrollment in pharmacy schools across the country.
In 2022, pharmacy school applications were at their lowest in years. To help encourage the next generation to pursue the profession, WVU has partnered with a local technical college to get high school students enrolled in a training program that gives them didactic and experiential work.
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