New program helps the chronically ill

July 10, 2006

To better serve the prescription drug needs of chronic-disease outpatient populations, one of the largest disease management companies is aligning its services with a pharmacy benefit manager in a 10-year collaboration. Medco Health Solutions, a PBM based in Franklin Lakes, N.J., and Nashville-based Healthways recently announced details of a newly formed alliance. The key advantage for patient members will be intervention by pharmacists and other clinical educators armed with more pertinent information earlier in the patient's plan of care. The companies project that the long-term results will be better compliance with clinical practice guidelines, a decreased risk of hospitalization, and ultimately a healthier lifestyle for each patient served by the program.

"As soon as patients present their prescription to the pharmacy, our clinical educators get in touch with them," explained Glen Stettin, M.D., senior VP for clinical and therapeutic solutions for Medco. "These are important teachable moments. Patients are newly diagnosed, their prescriptions are new, and they're receptive to what they need to do to get and stay healthy and avoid complications of their illness," he said.

As such, the Medco-Healthways partnership is essentially building upon an already successful inpatient education collaboration model, according to Stettin. "We're taking an inpatient collaborative practice model that has worked well in the inpatient setting and expanding it to an outpatient setting to patients with chronic illnesses and medication needs," he explained.

"We are linking the patients of the Medco pharmacy system with the coaching and health-education services offered through the Healthways nurses, dietitians, respiratory therapists, and other educational clinical staff," Stettin continued. "They will provide a telephonic support service to help these outpatients from the time of diagnosis to the successful completion of their goals."

Key components of the new program include:

"First and foremost, one of the most significant benefits of this alliance with Medco will be the ability to continue to drive improved health status of these chronic disease populations," added Janet Calhoun, senior VP of product development for Healthways. "Through this alliance, pharmacists and nurses will have better access to more timely data, bringing to market unprecedented opportunities."

In addition to the pharmacy management program, the alliance will also create, market, and deliver fully integrated wellness, disease management, and high-risk care management programs. The programs will initially be marketed to Medco's existing clients-health plans, employers, and public sector organizations-that represent more than 55 million Americans.

THE AUTHOR is a writer in the Atlanta area.