Clinical consequences drive the need for pharmacy integration

February 1, 2010

More specialty drugs means more management of patient needs and more cooperation

"Coordinating pharmacy and medical benefits paints a total picture of compliance without a gap in data, and thus, impacts outcomes," says Nita Stella, senior vice president, ActiveHealth Management, a care management company headquartered in New York City. "In addition, sharing information can increase medication safety and effectiveness by triggering alerts to flag drug-to-drug interactions, contraindicated drugs and non-compliance."

Integration is an effective vehicle for identifying high-risk members and putting value-based benefit design into place. For example, an integrated system could identify high-risk members and lower copayments for those individuals or for an entire class of drugs, such as stains, to encourage compliance.

The Clinical Pharmacy Cardiac Risk Service (CPCRS) at Kaiser Permanente Colorado combines KP HealthConnect, an electronic health record (EHR), with an electronic care registry, proactive patient outreach, wellness and medication management.

"We are able to determine who has a cardiovascular event and deliver continuity of care cost-efficiently by integrating pharmacy and nursing teams with patients and their doctors and using technology and other tools to address problems," says Jon Rasmussen, chief of clinical pharmacy, cardiovascular services. "Primary care physicians and cardiologists spend an inordinate amount of time with chronic care patients, so we're looking for ways that pharmacists and nurses can relieve some of the burden. If these cardiac patients are managed consistently through collaboration, that frees up physicians to address acute issues."

Results show the number of those meeting their LDL cholesterol goals increased from 26% to 73%, and screening for cholesterol rose from 55% to 97% during an average length of participation in the program of 2.3 years.

In addition, participants in the CPCRS program had an 88% reduced risk of dying from a cardiac-related cause when enrolled in the program within 90 days of a heart attack.

When members are close to release from the program, Kaiser Permanente rehabilitation nurses set up phone calls to discuss diet, exercise, depression, smoking cessation and medications. In a seamless process, Rasmussen says, after discharge, participants work closely with clinical pharmacists for long-term medication management.

Although the program has been successful by saving lives, reducing hospitalizations and recouping investment, it hasn't been without its challenges. Among them have been getting clinicians to communicate via the EHR, developing multifunctional teams and making sure that "we target the right person with the right treatment at the right time," he says.

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