Pharmacy Technicians: How They Help Make the IPM World Go ‘Round

Pharmacy technicians are the heart of IPM – helping members with everything from eligibility, prior authorizations, refills too soon, plan coverage inquiries, and more.

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Pharmacy Technicians: How They Help Make the IPM World Go ‘Round

IPM is continually searching for ways to improve the customer experience. One such way is by providing an educated support staff across the user experience. Each of IPM’s customer service representatives are certified pharmacy technicians. They are well versed in processes related to plan implementation, sharing accumulator and eligibility data, and entering and updating benefit plans. We know they are qualified to do the job, but how did they get here?

Erica's Story

I knew I was interested in the healthcare industry, but I didn’t always know in what way. I initially thought I wanted to become a pharmacist. I was looking at a program that would allow me to become a Doctor of Pharmacy and have an MBA after six years. However, I was a little hesitant because I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to be a pharmacist, and the credits in this program were non-transferrable. I didn’t want to invest my time and resources into something I wasn’t all the way sold on. 

I decided to get my pharmacy technician license as a way of testing the waters. I figured that would help me get a feel for the pharmacy world and know if I wanted to continue down the path to becoming a Doctor of Pharmacy. I went to a local community college and got my certification. 

As it turns out, I didn’t want to be a Doctor of Pharmacy, but I did want to continue in the healthcare industry. After coming to IPM, I learned that there are so many ways to utilize a pharmacy technician license. I went on to earn my B.S. in Business and recently completed an MBA in Health Care Administration. I still keep my pharmacy technician certification active, and I am grateful for the role it has played in getting me to where I am today.”

Erica Gong, Risk Management Project Manager

How does somebody become a pharmacy technician?

The routes to becoming a pharmacy technician can vary widely. While a high school diploma or equivalent is typically required, the education requirements are different depending on which state you are in. Many pharmacy technicians receive on-the-job training, with each employer having different areas of focus, training protocols, and lengths of time required. Some on-the-job training can be completed in as little as three months, while other programs can require a full year.

Another route to receiving the pharmacy technician designation is through a vocational or community college where students study topics like math, data entry, medication dispensing, pharmacy law, and other applicable topics. With this flexible path, many people decide the minimal barriers to entry make a pharmacy technician certification an attractive option.

Chelsi's Story

“The summer before my senior year I wanted to borrow my grandma’s car to go to the mall, so I told her I wanted to go ‘look for a job.’ Well, the joke ended up being on me because when I got back to my grandma’s she had gone and picked up her prescriptions at a local pharmacy, and I had a job interview that afternoon. 

I initially got hired as a pharmacy clerk and wasn’t really looking at making a career out that job. The pharmacist really encouraged me to look at becoming a pharmacy technician. After some initial hesitation I decided I would go get certified.

My local tech school allowed me to get my certification in six months; since it wasn’t a huge commitment, I was willing to give it a try, and I am so glad I did. It has really opened up a lot of doors for me as I have worked at retail pharmacies, closed-door pharmacies, and now at a PBM.

One of the cool things about being a pharmacy technician is there really are a variety of jobs that are opened up to you once you have that certification.”

Chelsi White, Manager, Customer Service Operations

What does a certified pharmacy technician do?

Most, but not all, pharmacy technicians begin their careers in the pharmacy. Depending on where they are employed, their roles can include:

  • Packing and labeling prescriptions
  • Answering phone calls and customer inquiries
  • Maintaining pharmacy inventory and patient records
  • Collecting payment and processing insurance claims
  • Measuring medication quantities for prescription fills
  • Gathering medical histories, including all current drugs the patient takes
  • Maintaining good HIPAA standard practices

Jesalyn's Story

“After I graduated high school I was unsure of the direction I wanted to go and was very intimidated by the idea of a big college experience. One day my dad and I were at a local pharmacy.  He knew I was searching for my next step, so he asked why not consider becoming a pharmacy technician. I did some research and realized I could complete my training in six months, and that definitely appealed to me.

After graduating, I worked at a retail pharmacy for four years, and honestly, I thought I’d work in a pharmacy forever. However, I started to get burned out. I saw an ad for a receptionist at IPM and I jumped. The pharmacy benefit world has opened up so many more career opportunities that I never even imagined I would have. After working as the receptionist, I moved into the customer service department assisting customers and pharmacies and anyone else who needed help. Today, I am an implementation manager, working in a field that I didn’t even know existed as a newly graduated senior all those years ago.”

Jesalyn Jessing, Implementation Manager

How will the skill set of certified pharmacy technicians help my members?

The calls received by IPM’s call center are almost a 50/50 split between pharmacies and members. When a member calls and wonders why a claim was rejected, our educated support staff is able to review their benefits with them. Sometimes a member’s benefit design does not cover the medication, but often the medication is covered; the prescription just needs to be resubmitted in a way that allows for coverage, i.e., taking a 90-day supply and filling it with three 30-day supplies.

With the majority of IPM’s service center calls focusing on claims data, prior authorizations, plan setups, and member eligibility information, customer service representatives use their knowledge and the data available to resolve most member concerns. They can problem solve issues such as refill-too-soon requests, member eligibility verification, formulary status of medications, and plan coverage inquiries without needing to escalate the inquiry. By minimizing the need for additional layers of oversight, customer concerns get resolved quickly and efficiently.

No two pharmacy technicians have the same path into the PBM industry. We also know that no two customers have the same healthcare journey. For every pharmacy technician who makes IPM a part of their career path we are fortunate to have them on board, providing exceptional care to our clients and members.