Strategies to Better Serve
CVS has developed a program called ScriptPath that analyzes a patient’s medication, including chronic and acute medication, and helps pharmacists develop a prescription schedule for patients.
This schedule uses redesigned prescription labels with bright, color-coded instructions that clearly indicate when the medications should be taken.
“The way we designed it, people can actually line their bottles up in their medicine cabinet by time (of dose),” Blais says, adding that the program helps pharmacists set time aside to have more in-depth conversations with patients.
MacNeill uses weekly Omnicell blister cards to help improve medication management for his patients.
“It’s fully customizable, so I can have a patient who takes their meds at 7 a.m., 10 a.m., and noon time, and then a bedtime dose,” he says. “We can put them all on the same card.”
The packaging helps highlight compliance issues and allows for the pharmacist to work closely with a doctor to address any compliance issues that may occur.
For instance, if a patient always forgets to take their 5 p.m. medication, the pharmacist could work with the doctor to discuss changing the dose and having the patient take the medication at 8 p.m. with her other medications instead.
MacNeill says the compliance packaging is hugely successful, with about 85% of patients using the service and an average of 10 new patients a week adding it. Although it’s labor intensive for the pharmacist, he believes it’s a valuable addition.
Kirchner, who also offers blister packaging, saying it helps promote a pharmacy’s value not only to the caregiver, who may not have to spend time each week preparing medications, but to nurses or staff at assisted-living or long-term care centers.
Reducing the number of trips a patient or caregiver needs to take into the pharmacy, whether it’s through a medication synchronization program or compliance program, is also beneficial for those juggling multiple prescriptions.
A Walgreens spokesperson says their patients can take advantage of prescription refill reminders that can be delivered to a cell phone or email address. Walgreens also provides easy-open caps to patients who need them due to arthritis or other joint conditions.
“We also offer our prescription labels in large print to make it easier for patients to read and adhere to vital prescription information such as directions and warnings,” the spokesman says.
Kirchner says pharmacists should conduct a comprehensive medication review to determine what medications a patient is taking and which medications they have been prescribed.
“I think in general, when you are starting to deal with people who are older, there’s a little resistance to change. There’s just a lot of anxiety around change, and I think you need to understand that as a pharmacist. Sometimes it’s going to take more than a couple touches to get somebody to do something. It’s probably going to take more time than you think in terms of conversation,” he says.
Conducting a comprehensive medication review also opens the door for a longer conversation between the pharmacist and patient to learn more about their current habits, lifestyle factors, and level of retention that can help pharmacists better prepare a treatment plan.
It also might bring to light whether the patient is struggling to pay for medication, so that the pharmacists can intervene and try to find programs to help with drug costs or reach out to physicians to suggest lower cost options.
To gain an accurate sense of a patient’s understanding regarding medications and current habits, it’s important for pharmacists to ask probing questions such as what kind of side effects a patient is experiencing, how often they take the medication, when they take their medication, and even how long they’ve been on a drug regimen, says Blais.
Pharmacists need to become the quarterback of complex drug regimens, managing multiple prescriptions and multiple providers to be one central hub where a patient or caregiver can come for complete and clear guidance about their treatment plan.
“That really is what sets our profession apart from a pill dispensary,” Blais says “At the end of the day what makes pharmacists special is they are the front lines of healthcare, nobody in the healthcare system sees a patient more than a pharmacist.”