Saira A. Jan, MS, PharmD., is a vice president and chief pharmacy officer at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, and Professor Emerita at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University. She has been affiliated with both organizations for more than 25 years.
You are an organizer of the School of Pharmacy’s Annual Roy A. Bowers Pharmaceutical Conference, which brings together leaders from academia, the pharmaceutical industry, health systems, retail, population management and policy makers. How do you see these gatherings sparking ideas and collaborations that can advance better health care?
The Bowers conference offers an academic platform to discuss current health care issues. Today it’s a multi-stakeholder event where we bring individuals together to identify challenges and to discuss and provide solutions through collaborations and innovations. The participants include but are not limited to academics, state officials, legislators, payers, pharma, providers, FQHCs, and employer groups. The conference is heavily focused on interactive sessions with a call-to-action focus. It provides CE and CME credits and follows the rigor of un-biased content presentations. The topics are not limited to pharmacy and include topics such as population health, health care trends, public policy issues, best practices in health care delivery, data analytics, predictive modeling, behavioral health, and health care disparities. There is a local, national, and international perspective.
The academic platform fosters intellectual discussions that address challenging topics that spark new ideas. The discussions and networking opportunities are integral to the conference’s success. Many interdisciplinary collaborations have evolved from this conference.
What can we expect for next year’s conference?
Health care quality, affordability, and access have always been the backbone of this conference. The New Jersey Commonwealth Report has provided valuable insight on the state of current affairs. The focus for next year is to build on this year’s discussion to continue the work to improve our ranking in the report and to share best practices. Prioritizing health equity is fundamental. It is about creating a more equitable and accessible health care system, understanding consumer and employer challenges, and shaping our health care delivery to improve outcomes. Oncology, specialty, asthma, and diabetes are areas that are driving trends. Understanding trend drivers will be part of the discussion. Medicare and Medicaid legislation and its impact in New Jersey is another area that we will focus on at Bower’s this year. We hope as always to bring different perspectives and to facilitate discussion on topics that are cutting edge and provide a vision for future collaborations.
You have trained many pharmacists through the years. In the conference, do you see the professionals you have trained influencing health care?
Pharmacy is a constantly evolving field that has expanded significantly. There are now integrated and collaborative practices with providers and expansion in areas such as population health and case management with integration of behavioral health. The expanding pipeline and introduction of cell and gene therapy starts a new era of expertise, management, and treatment modalities. The Bowers conference provides students and recent graduates additional training to understand different perspectives and to add to their skill sets.
The impact of the students we have trained is evident by their work in health systems, in pharmaceutical companies, in insurance companies, hospitals, academics, specialty pharmacies, government programs, and legislative areas. The collaborative practices are a key driver to close gaps and help patients avoid emergency departments and reduce hospital utilization — a big contributor of health care costs. We have active participation of pharmacists in the Bowers conference. The more we provide them with these forums the more they are able to influence health care.
What are the top one or two improvements you’d like to see to help consumers with affordability and access?
Affordability is a key challenge for employer groups and individual consumers. Understanding value and options is a key driver to affordability. We must invest in more real-life evidence and comparative effectiveness studies so that consumers make the right choices. The big area of opportunity is investing in disease prevention and disease progression. Developing tools focusing on predictive modeling, stratification, and giving the right drug to the right populations drives appropriate utilization. Having the right incentives in place for members and providers with complimentary benefit designs support good health outcomes and drives appropriate utilization.
Finally, we like to ask a question beyond a person’s professional work. If you could choose anyone (throughout history or alive today) who would be your hero?
It is difficult to identify one individual who is my hero. I have had multiple people who have impacted and influenced my life. My parents, my professors, individuals who drive change in health care — whether they are at the front line or leaders — all are my heroes and I constantly learn from them.