Medication Therapy Management Services for Patient Needs
As a pharmacist working with an insurance company, I often get asked about the value of a personal clinical pharmacist. I know that most people feel their healthcare team has them pretty well covered. They have a local pharmacy that takes care of them and a doctor's office that also handles many of their concerns. So, why do I need a Medication Therapy Management pharmacist as well?
In the current healthcare environment, our local pharmacies and doctor offices are understaffed and busy just trying to get through the day. Talking to a pharmacist who actually has time to spend with you and deep knowledge about your medications has a lot of advantages. As the patient, you are the only one that knows exactly which medications you are taking and how and when you're taking them. When a pharmacist talks directly to you, it provides so much more information than looking at a chart. For example, we can spend a few minutes discussing how the medications are actually working for you and look for ways to improve things when needed. I also like to spend time exploring ways to save you money or make your medication regimen easier.
Roger, the Vietnam Vet
I had a patient this last month; let’s call him “Roger." He is a Vietnam veteran who got his medication from his local pharmacy and from the VA. He was getting his labs done regularly, but his thyroid levels were all over the place, and no one could figure out what was going on. He also wasn’t feeling well. I visited with Roger on the phone. We went over his medications, and we discovered together that while he was getting his thyroid medication from the VA, he was also getting another thyroid medication at his local pharmacy. Thus, he was taking double the amount he needed and doing this can cause weight loss, anxiety and arrhythmias. Because the names were different and the pills looked different, he thought they were two different medications. By spending a few minutes on the phone together, we were able to make him feel much better and it was such an easy thing to fix.
Maddie, the Foster Daughter
Earlier this year, I had a caregiver talk to me about her adult foster daughter I’ll call “Maddie.” We talked through her medication list, and then I asked if she had any concerns. She got very quiet and started to cry. She had asked the doctor for a bladder medication for her daughter and told me she was informed it wasn’t covered by insurance. She went on to explain that she was feeling desperate. She had replaced Maddies’s mattress three times this year because it had become so soiled and she didn’t know what to do. I made a couple of phone calls and found out that the medication had been called in to the pharmacy, but when no one came to pick it up, it was put back into stock at their local pharmacy. The medication was actually covered, but had never been picked up. It was sad to me that such a simple misunderstanding could cause so much grief. I was so grateful she had taken my call and that we were able to help her daughter live a fuller life.
Not all my patient stories are this extreme. I often help reassure my patients that their medications look good, help people with reminder tools, or get them set up to save them time and money using a mail order pharmacy. I also answer questions about side effects or drug interactions. I remind my patients the importance of getting their vaccines, mammograms, and bone density screenings when they are due. It’s my job to make sure that if there are multiple doctors or pharmacies involved, everyone knows the big picture. I am grateful when patients give me the opportunity to visit with them and discuss their medications. Sometimes a simple phone call can make a big difference in their health and overall wellbeing.
Dawn Schott, RPh