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PORTLAND, Ore., and McCall, Idaho–When you think of a pharmacist, you likely picture the person who fills your prescriptions at your local drugstore. Now, another possible place to see a pharmacist is your local primary care clinic where your doctor would refer you to meet with a pharmacist to review the medications you are taking and their impact on your health.
That’s what’s happening at St. Luke’s McCall clinics and beyond in the rural community of McCall, Idaho. Providers are embarking on a new way to improve people’s health through a service called clinical pharmacy. The model has the potential to be a leading example of how the healthcare system can become both more responsive to patient needs and cost effective.
The American College of Clinical Pharmacy defines clinical pharmacy as a health science discipline in which pharmacists provide patient care that optimizes medication therapy and promotes health, wellness and disease prevention.
“Traditionally, when you make an appointment at the clinic, you would see only your physician,” said St. Luke’s McCall Clinic Manager Don McKenzie. “This is still the case, but now you have a whole team of healthcare professionals collaborating with your physician in support of your care and available to meet with you as needed.”
As the idea of a clinical pharmacist was explored, providers and patients in McCall were informally surveyed. Local providers reported medication non-adherence as a common problem, and estimated 40 to 60 percent of patients have issues with taking their medication correctly. Nearly 40 percent of patients surveyed fell in either the moderate- or high-risk category for complications resulting from medication management.
“With some patients, we are addressing the same issue about medications month after month. We need a new model to break the cycle,” one provider noted in comments submitted with the survey.
The local findings mirror national patterns.
According to the National Consumers League and their “Script Your Future” campaign nearly three out of four Americans report that they do not always take their medication as directed, a problem that causes more than one-third of medicine-related hospitalizations, nearly 125,000 deaths in the United States each year, and adds $290 billion in avoidable costs to the healthcare system annually.
One of the advantages of having a clinical pharmacist is the one-on-one time with patients. A clinical pharmacist can know a patient’s medical history and diagnosis, which is important when evaluating medication therapy. Karl Johnson, PharmD, has been hired in this new role. “A patient may suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes and depression, all potentially requiring different medications,” Johnson said. “I can evaluate the prescriptions and work with the patient and team to advise on the safe, appropriate and cost-effective use of the medications.”
This team-based model of care began to take shape in 2014, when St. Luke’s McCall first employed a patient access navigator to help connect patients with resources and financial aid. Nurse care coordinators and behavioral health professionals soon followed. “In the past two years, the new team approach has led to more effective care for our patients and improved patient satisfaction,” McKenzie said. “It’s still early, but initial results are showing improved health and outcomes for patients.”
This innovation is made possible through a two-year, $160,000 grant to St. Luke’s McCall Foundation from Cambia Health Foundation. “Our foundation is excited to partner on this innovative model that helps move prescription medication from a product-centered to a patient-centered role” said Angela Hult, Cambia Health Foundation executive director. “Cambia Health Foundation supports initiatives that promote more patient engagement and collaboration throughout our health care system.”
About St. Luke’s McCall Foundation
The mission of St Luke’s McCall Foundation is to assist the hospital and its clinics in efforts to enhance the health of the community and advance medical excellence. This is accomplished now through directed giving and grants and into the future through the development and management of the endowment. Learn more at: https://www.stlukesonline.org/about-st-lukes/support-st-lukes/mccall-foundation
About Cambia Health Foundation
Based in Portland, Oregon, Cambia Health Foundation is the corporate foundation of Cambia Health Solutions, a total health solutions company dedicated to transforming the way people experience health care. Cambia Health Foundation is a 501(c)(3) grant-making organization that strategically invests and partners with organizations regionally and nationally to advance palliative care quality, access and understanding; improve the mental and behavioral health of underserved children; and transform health care to a more person-focused, equitable and economically sustainable system. Learn more at www.cambiahealthfoundation.org
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