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How Clinical Pharmacists Improve Patient Care: Q&A With Aaron Adams

ways to increase medication compliance

 

Aaron Adams, PharmD, MBA, is a Clinical Pharmacist with Cureatr. In this position, he provides specialized clinical pharmacy services through direct interactions with patients and the healthcare team. He works with the Clinical Services team to facilitate the achievement of both a high level of customer satisfaction and implementation of Cureatr's telepharmacy service initiatives. Dr. Adams became a full-time member of the Cureatr team in March.

In this interview, Dr. Adams discusses why he joined the Cureatr team, what he values most about being a clinical pharmacist, his take on the top challenge facing clinical pharmacists today, and what he thinks patients appreciate most about the support provided by a clinical pharmacist. Dr. Adams also describes how he was recently able to make a significant, positive impact on a patient's health and well-being.

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Q: In your journey as a clinical pharmacist, what led you to Cureatr?

Dr. Aaron Adams: I graduated pharmacy school in 2017. From pharmacy school, I completed a two-year pharmacy residency at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) where I specialized in geriatrics. During that time, I was exposed to all the different things clinical pharmacists can do in different care settings. I fell in love with analytics and the accountable care organization (ACO) world. Before pharmacy school and residency, my knowledge of a pharmacist was that they were more reactive in their work — they were the tail-end of the visit to a hospital that culminated with filling and dispensing medications. But through my journey to becoming a clinical pharmacist, I learned more about how pharmacists can be a proactive member of a patient's care team and contribute directly to their well-being.

That's what attracted me to Cureatr. Cureatr is doing great things to help patients stay out of the hospital and improve their overall health. I also found the way Cureatr is empowering clinic pharmacists through virtual meetings and telepharmacy and giving clinical pharmacists the flexibility to deliver better care appealing. These processes are not new, but what's new is the way Cureatr has implemented clinical pharmacy and supported it with technology. This interested me and brought me on board.

Q: What do you love about being a clinical pharmacist?

AA: Helping patients in a unique way. In healthcare, patient care and treatment often involve medications in some way or fashion, whether to treat a condition and make a patient feel better or taking a medication to counteract something that your body is not doing properly. What I love about being a clinical pharmacist is having the knowledge to discuss things with patients while also having the ability to have different, higher-level discussions with providers to figure out how to optimize medications as a part of their treatment plan.

As clinical pharmacists, we see the same medications over and over, but every patient and situation are different. This means that every medication regimen is different, and there are always different caveats that keep things interesting. I love that there's consistency with clinical pharmacy, yet there's always something new and there are different ways to approach helping our patients.

Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge you face as a clinical pharmacist?

AA: Educating patients about the value of clinical pharmacists. Most people think that a pharmacist is the person behind the counter counting medications. That's ingrained. The challenge is to get over the hurdle of this preconceived notion and demonstrate the vast wealth of knowledge, expertise, and value that clinical pharmacists can bring to a patient's experience.

The good news is that it's happening. The pandemic has made pharmacists more visible and accessible. I think that helped transition some patients to see that we have a lot more to provide for them than just filling medications.

Q: Why are clinical pharmacists in the best position to take the lead on medication management?

AA: We have the most training involving medications. That puts us in the best place to use our knowledge to help manage medications. We know a lot about medications, and we know how those medications tie back to the patient's unique condition and circumstance. We can bridge the gap and fill in the blanks between patients, their providers, and their loved ones so everyone is operating from a more informed and confident place.

Pharmacists are one of the most accessible and trusted healthcare professionals for patients. We touch base with patients often, regardless of whether a health related event has occurred, because we're involved in their medications. Whether it be for dispensing a medication or educating the patient about the medication, we are in a unique position where we are able regularly speak with our patients, dig deeper into things that may be happening with their medications, and then use our knowledge to involve other providers or share our expertise to help maximize those regimens and make improvements for that patient. I think that our consistent communication with our patients shows how much we care and helps establish trust in a way that other providers can't.

Q: What can healthcare organizations do to better integrate and leverage the skills of clinical pharmacists?

AA: Have everyone within the organization know that we're available. Oftentimes, people are unaware that they have access to a clinical pharmacist as a part of their care team. We can be one of those team members that do a lot of critical work behind the scenes. When people know that we're available, we are a resource they utilize. More exposure for clinical pharmacists can go a long way.

Q: Can you share a recent experience of how your work with a patient resulted in improved health outcomes?

AA: I was working with a patient who was discharged from the hospital and had several changes to their medication list. This patient thought they understood everything their provider told them as they were leaving the hospital, but they were also uncertain because of everything that was happening with transportation, getting home, and adjusting to their new normal because of the event that led to them being admitted.

When I spoke with this patient, I went through their medication list and reeducated them on the purpose of each mediation, how to take them properly, why it was important to do so, and how their new medications fit in with the rest of their regimen.

Through our discussion, I learned that the patient was taking their insulin wrong. They were confused about when to take a long-acting insulin versus short-acting insulin. This confusion and improper use of their insulin put them at a higher risk of having low blood sugars, which could lead them back into the hospital.

By taking the extra time to answer the patient's questions and make sure the patient understood their medications and how to properly follow their regimen, I was able to empower them to follow their medication regimen properly and reduce their risk of additional problems and potential readmissions.

These conversations give patients more control over their healthcare. They aren't just going home with a bunch of medications that they now need to figure out how to use on their own. With the help of a clinical pharmacist, they have somebody who's in their corner, making sure they're more comfortable with their situation and who can talk through any questions and fill any knowledge gaps.

Q: What have you found that patients value the most about the services and support they receive from clinical pharmacists?

AA: It's all really about the additional time patients get with someone who is there to help them during what may be a very stressful transition period. I think the comment I get the most from patients is that they're grateful someone took the time to call them to check in — to make sure they understood their situation and make sure they were doing okay.

That goes a long way. Patients appreciate the extra security and support they get once they leave the hospital. They're not just out on your own. The additional, health professional touch point gives them that understanding and security, not only with their medications but their disease states in general.

Free Webinar: Putting the Clinical Pharmacist Front and Center: A Panel Discussion.

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