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Setting Your Patients Up for a Healthier Year


Improve Medication Management and Health Outcomes With Clinical Pharmacist Support

It's the beginning of a new year, and there may be no better time to focus initiatives around improving your patients’ engagement in their healthcare plan. When you successfully engage a patient, you are far more likely to see someone who is going to be adherent to their treatment plan and medication regimen.

By connecting with patients around issues like what is most important to them in their lives that can or is being affected by their health, their treatment goals, and what they are hoping to get out of their care plan, patients gain a better understanding of the ways they can personally affect their health and outcomes. With this knowledge, they will often be more motivated to become an active participant in their care and, therefore, more likely to adhere to that plan and achieve the success you and they are striving for.

This is especially important concerning medication management. It's understood that medication nonadherence has a significant health and economic impact. About 125,000 deaths and around 10% of hospital admissions each year are believed to be directly tied to medication nonadherence. Medication adherence is not just important for patient health and outcomes, but it also greatly affects our healthcare system as a whole. Nonadherence adds costs, leads to occupied beds that could be filled by other patients, and further strains an already stressed system struggling with staffing and burnout.

The New Year "Reset"

The beginning of the year is a good time for patients to think about "resetting" their healthcare. Everyone, especially those who have been struggling with treatment and adherence, can benefit from a "new year, new you" mentality. 

What makes the new year such an appropriate time for this reset? Consider that most patients, including those with Medicare and commercial insurance, will find the beginning of the year is when their benefits may change, whether they have remained on the same insurance plan that has undergone a few alterations or chosen to go with a different insurer or plan. In either instance, there will be nuances patients will need to navigate concerning their new coverage.

The turning of the calendar can serve as a motivating trigger for patients to take stock of their medications — to go through all their medicine cabinets and see what's expired or hasn't been used for some time. It's essential for patients to dispose of expired medications and drugs they no longer need. Cleaning up medications in this manner can help a patient better focus on the medications and treatments applicable to their current ailments. 

The beginning of the year is also a great time for patients to schedule preventive services, such as a physical or Medicare annual wellness visit (AWV). Even if the appointment will be scheduled for a bit later in the year, at least patients can put these visits on their calendars. Doing so will reduce the likelihood that the year will go by without patients completing the physical or AWV. 

Recognizing that, for the reasons described above, the beginning of the year represents an excellent opportunity for patients to reset their healthcare, it also represents a good opportunity for providers to help with this reset and achieve its objectives. By successfully engaging with their patients during this reset period, providers can better set their patients up for year-long treatment plans and medication adherence success. 

The strategy that more organizations are leveraging to achieve such success while avoiding further burdening their existing providers is integrating clinical pharmacists into their care teams.

5 Reasons to Add Clinical Pharmacists

Whether your organization employs clinical pharmacists or adds them to your care teams through an engagement with a company like Cureatr, noteworthy improvements in patient engagement and adherence are likely to follow. Here are five reasons to consider making clinical pharmacists a permanent part of your care teams.

  1. Your medication experts.

    Clinical pharmacists specialize in medications. There are a lot of nuances to medications clinical pharmacists are likely to know about, and thus tips and tricks they can share with patients and providers to help with treatment and adherence. During a comprehensive medication review, a clinical pharmacist will review the current medication regimen as it relates to a patient’s medical conditions and identify drug-drug and drug-disease state interactions, medication-related side effects, and any duplicative or suboptimal treatment and then develop recommendations for the provider. Clinical pharmacists can also assess patient understanding, health literacy, and barriers to medication access and use.

  2. Understanding options.

    The FDA puts the number of prescription drug products approved for marketing at greater than 20,000. New medications frequently come to the market. If a patient tries a medication and is unsuccessful with it, meaning they either do not achieve the desired results or there are significant side effects or adverse reactions, there are likely to be one or more other options for medications. 

    As medication experts, clinical pharmacists are likely to know about various options they can recommend to providers that would fit with a patient’s current regimen and treatment needs. By connecting patients with clinical pharmacists and encouraging patients to openly communicate with their care team about their medication experiences, changes to a regimen may be possible that can bring about positive improvements and treatment success. 
  3. Coverage changes.

    A compelling reason to involve clinical pharmacists at the beginning of the year concerns changes in insurance plans and coverage of medications. Patients may not think or know how to review whether coverage of their prescriptions has changed from one year and one plan to the next. Clinical pharmacists can effectively compare coverage of a patient's medication regimen under one plan to coverage under another plan or under the same plan and identify concerns and enact changes before they become problems. An early review of a regimen's coverage provides the care team with more time to navigate new obstacles and hopefully avoid treatment lapses. 

    A medication regimen review by a clinical pharmacist can also mitigate the risk of avoidable rejections at the pharmacy, such as prior authorization, and provide the care team time to review options, adjust as clinically appropriate, and hopefully avoid treatment lapses. 
  4. Maximizing insurance benefits.

    Clinical pharmacists can help ensure patients are maximizing their insurance plan's benefits. Patients and providers may be unaware of all medication-related benefits a patient’s plan offers. Home delivery often has a lower copay than retail for extended-day supply prescriptions, and many Medicaid and Medicare plans now offer an over-the-counter benefit. These are great programs where patients can order items like vitamins, acetaminophen, and blood pressure cuffs. 

    In addition, there may be easy cost savings available by switching to preferred formulary agents. Many Medicare plans now offer Tier 1 medications at $0 copay. By synchronizing medications, a patient could reduce trips to the pharmacy. A clinical pharmacist can help patients understand, navigate, and maximize these benefits.
  5. Delivering patient education.

    If patients feel overwhelmed by their medication regimen, are unsure about why they are taking one or more medications, or struggle to follow their regimen, adherence, and outcomes will decline. Clinical pharmacists can effectively engage with patients around these issues, helping create an organization, understanding, and a process that leads to greater adherence. If questions about a medication or process arise, a patient can reach out to the clinical pharmacist for guidance. 

    Helping patients better understand and organize their medications will also help with the continuum of care, as primary care providers and specialists are more likely to be presented with an accurate, current regimen by patients during their appointments.

Getting Started With Clinical Pharmacists

If you choose to hire clinical pharmacists, it's essential that you build processes to maximize the value they will bring to your care team and deliver to your patients. Regularly communicate with your clinical pharmacists about provider needs and initiatives that would benefit from their insight. Involve clinical pharmacists in provider meetings and encourage them to provide medication education that may help providers better support patients or know when it's best to involve a clinical pharmacist in a patient’s care. 

For some organizations, the budget or patient volume may not support hiring full-time clinical pharmacists. In other instances, organization leadership may want to undertake a proof-of-concept project before committing resources to establish a clinical pharmacist program. Partnering with an organization like Cureatr can provide organizations with experienced clinical pharmacists without needing to commit to full-time hires and reduce implementation work like recruitment and protocol development. Regardless of your model, including clinical pharmacists in the care team is not out of reach for any organization. Doing so will not only set patients up for greater success but will also help set your organization up for greater success.

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