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Q&A With Rose Abraham, PharmD, Cureatr's New Director of Clinical Pharmacy Operations

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In a recent press release, Cureatr has named Rose Abraham, PharmD, as its Director of Clinical Pharmacy Operations, where she oversees all of the company's pharmacy operations, including planning, recruitment, organizing, supervision, and quality assurance activities. Here she discusses her work as a pharmacist, what attracted her to Cureatr, the role and future of telepharmacy, and what makes Cureatr unique in the medication management space.

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

Dr. Rose Abraham: Early in my career, I was fortunate to work with really good leaders and mentors. This started when I was a pharmacy intern at a Walgreens in Boston, which is where I went to pharmacy school (Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences). The work I did as an intern introduced me a new world of retail pharmacy.

One of the pharmacy supervisors for Walgreens at the time, Nirali Rana, PharmD, took me under her wing and educated me about clinical services. I was able to see the powerful role pharmacists can — and should — play. This supervisor also introduced me to medication therapy management (MTM), which was a subject we had not covered yet in our curriculum. After she taught me about MTM, I essentially became the point person in charge of helping other Walgreens in the area hit their MTM goals. Part of my work involved explaining to pharmacy managers and store managers why MTM was important.

I worked to figure out ways to incorporate MTM into workflow. It was a great challenge for me as an intern. I was on rotation, which gave me more time to work on this project. I also took a strong interest in MTM and found talking and educating others about it enjoyable, so I wasn't bothered by driving around to all of the stores to help them.

After I graduated from pharmacy school, I moved down to Maryland. At that time, there were more opportunities there for medication therapy management. I was able to work as a pharmacy manager and as an MTM pharmacist because insurance companies in Maryland were paying for MTM services. These insurers wanted patients to receive MTM sessions because of the beneficial impact of MTM on patient health and wellness.

It was here that I learned more about leadership. One of my mentors, Steve Bouyoukas, PharmD, taught me that I should keep working hard, keep learning, and always grow my people. If I didn’t follow that advice, I would have ended up stuck in the mentality that pharmacists should only perform retail dispensing when we are capable of much more.

I then moved to New York, where I worked for Duane Reade and Capsule. At both companies, we did a really good job of dispensing, but I found myself missing the care management work. That's when I came across Cureatr's call for volunteer pharmacists in the early days of the pandemic. The company announced it was seeking clinically trained pharmacists willing to volunteer some time to use its Meds 360° platform to help ensure senior citizens and chronically ill patients were receiving the medication support they needed during the health crisis. I jumped at the opportunity.

Q: What about Cureatr made you want to apply for the Director of Clinical Pharmacy Operations position?

RA: When I came on as a volunteer, I didn't anticipate making a career change. I just wanted to help others navigate the challenges of pandemic. During Cureatr's volunteer introduction session, we learned about Meds 360° and the information the platform contained. Cureatr asked for someone to volunteer to conduct quality assurance (QA)audits. Thanks to some previous work, I had the QA experience they were looking for.

As I learned more about Cureatr and Meds 360°, I was impressed not just by the platform, but the data it contained. It's typically very difficult to determine exactly what medications patients take because most see multiple doctors and often use multiple pharmacies to fill prescriptions. Meds 360° shows you everything a patient has been taken for the last 12 months, whether they went through insurance or not.

That's the kicker. Usually you do not see data about medications that patients receive which are not covered by insurance unless the medication in question is a controlled substance. With information about medications obtained with and without insurance, you can perform a complete drug utilization review since you are accessing all of the medications a patient is taking, not just some or most of them. When you're missing a piece of the medication history puzzle, you can't fully determine the potential drug interactions a patient may experience. You can only effectively educate the patient based on what you see and what you know.

In addition, after I spent more time with Cureatr performing QA, we then received clinical data. That was what sealed the deal for me and cemented my desire to work for the company. Whether you are a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM), hospital, or clinic, no one but Cureatr has both medication history and clinical data.

The impact that we are capable of making with all of this data, especially when there is a pharmacist involved, is immensely powerful. We are going to keep patients out of the hospital. This is what we are trained to do as pharmacists, but we don't always have the opportunity, or the information necessary, to achieve this.

Q: What do you love about being a pharmacist?

RA: Quite simply: leaving patients in a better shape than I found them. As a pharmacist, you get asked any number of questions by patients. But you have to identify the root cause of the question the patient is asking in order to provide the best solution possible. That's what I love about the work: solving problems. I enjoy doing the research and finding solutions that benefit others.

When you explain something to a patient that they didn't understand before, you see a lightbulb go on in their head. You can see it on their face. Suddenly, everything makes sense. Now they are more likely to adhere to the advice you gave them.

Q: What do you see as the biggest benefits of telepharmacy for clinicians and patients?

RA: COVID-19 has changed the game significantly. People are generally much less inclined to be outside unless it's necessary. Knowing that going to a hospital or clinic increases risk of exposure has shifted the thinking for a lot of patients. As clinicians, we need to adjust to this "new normal."

With telemedicine and telepharmacy, more people can gain access to care they would not have had access to before the health crisis. That's what's particularly valuable. Unlike a lot of the public perception, pharmacy isn't just dispensing. You now have pharmacies delivering medications, which solves the problem of making sure patients are receiving their medications. Telepharmacy can help with ensuring patients know how to properly take their medications, and you can actually build relationships with patients so they can achieve their goals, which is ultimately the most important benefit.

Q: Adoption of telepharmacy is on the rise. What do you think is necessary to further accelerate its adoption?

RA: We need provider status for pharmacists so they can be reimbursed for the many important services they are providing. The pandemic has led to accelerated growth of telemedicine and telepharmacy, and we are seeing the significant benefits of allowing patients to leverage these services. There is no reason to wait to grant provider status to pharmacists. It was the right thing to do before COVID-19. It's even more important now. We have pharmacists who are available and qualified to deliver these critical services virtually. The most significant obstacle standing in their way is lack of reimbursement. It's time to remove that obstacle.

Q: What do you think sets Cureatr apart from other medication management companies?

RA: As I previously noted, no one else has the clinical data and medication history together. Even hospitals only have what's in their electronic medical records system. While they can pull resources from other systems, they still won't have access to a complete picture of their patients. That can only come from Meds 360°. What we are able to do with this platform is changing and will continue to change healthcare for the better.

What sets Cureatr's culture apart from other companies is that everyone here is interested in your development, not just what you can do to grow Cureatr. I have experienced that kind of leadership before, and it really brought out the best in me as a leader, pharmacist, and person. Now, I am able to do the same with our telepharmacists. Together, we are going to keep a lot of patients out of the hospital.

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