Local pharmacists: Serving their communities


Patients often bring their own set of challenges with them to the pharmacy counter and community pharmacists have taken notice. Many have responded by creating programs that not only help patients secure the medication they need, but also offer them ways to make the most of their treatment plans.

Key Points

Sometimes a patient's medical needs cannot be met just with a bottle of prescription medication.

As many pharmacists know, a patient's circumstances can often be much more complicated. Financial difficulties may prevent the purchase of needed medication, or perhaps a lack of support leaves the patient struggling to manage a chronic disease alone.

Patients often bring their own set of challenges with them to the pharmacy counter and community pharmacists have taken notice.

These programs and patient-friendly policies can be found across the country in all types of pharmacies from 340B closed pharmacies and health-education centers to retail pharmacies.

Economic consciousness

At the Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center in Nashville, Tenn., the pharmacists often must overcome a number of obstacles before they are able to help the patients who come through the doors of the 340B pharmacy.

Many of the more than 28,000 patients the pharmacy serves each year are uninsured, and most are at or below 200% of the poverty level. The closed pharmacy also provides services to a diverse demographic population that often includes patients who aren't proficient in English.

All the pharmacy patrons are patients of the healthcare center and have been seen by a physician or nurse practitioner in one of the clinic's specialty areas. The center offers services in obstetrics and gynecology, internal medicine, family practice, ophthalmology, podiatry, dentistry, and pediatrics. It also houses a specialty suite.

To combat both the financial and language barriers at the center, the pharmacy, which averages about 5,000 prescriptions a month, has instituted a number of programs and policies.

"We really do try to make sure the patients get what they need," Bennette-Carter said.

Because it runs a 340B pharmacy, the center is already eligible for the government's drug-pricing program to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. The center also participates in Pfizer's Share to Care program,which provides brand-name drugs free of charge.

However, the financial assistance doesn't stop there. The Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center has also created a sample pharmacy, using samples that physicians at the center receive from pharmaceutical representatives. If a patient isn't able to afford medication, a sample of the drug is provided if it's available.

Employees at the center can also donate a portion of their paychecks each pay period to an employee-run assistance fund that the pharmacy can tap into when patients can't afford their medication.

The clinic tries to decrease the gap in healthcare disparity as much as possible.

"Just because they don't have the money to seek out the care doesn't mean that they don't deserve to be treated and cared for and educated about their disease state so that they can make better decisions at home," Bennette-Carter said.

The pharmacy, which is home to 2 full-time pharmacists and 1 part-time pharmacist, also has Spanish translators available during all business hours to overcome the language barrier between pharmacist and patient.

If the patient speaks a language other than Spanish, the pharmacists usually try to work through family members or friends who are able to translate instructions and relay questions. Morris Haddox III, the staff pharmacist at the health center, said that the translators have actually helped with the counseling process.

"It really makes it challenging but at the same time, when you bring an interpreter in, I think the counseling gets more in depth," he said. "We're going to spend more time with them to really ensure they are understanding what we are talking about."

All pharmacy employees also have software on their computer that automatically translates medication instructions and information from English into Spanish.

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