Wellspring provides the questionnaires and the physicians, who evaluate the information. Pharmacies make nutritional suggestions when appropriate, and patients get more attention. The idea is, everybody benefits.
After working for 18 years as a director of pharmacy for a 100-bed hospital in Ohio, Brian Taffin followed his dream and headed back to school to earn his medical degree. Then, impelled by a desire to pursue his lifelong interest in integrative medicine, he decided to complete a fellowship with the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.
Brian TaffinAbout a year ago, Taffin bought a medical practice and started to develop partnerships with several physicians to offer more natural therapies to patients. In addition to conventional medicine, his practice, Wellspring Medical, offers bioidentical hormone replacement and nutritional-based therapies.
Wellspring Medical, also a wellness company, offers independent pharmacies integrative or functional patient evaluations. Patients who have hypertension, high cholesterol, and/or diabetes, for example, can receive an assessment/screening from the standpoint of functional/integrative medicine.
“Patients will complete a comprehensive questionnaire, which includes previous diseases diagnosed by their physicians, current symptoms, current working conditions, and previous travel,” Taffin said. “We want to know what chemicals/toxins they are exposed to.”
Taffin’s physician partners will review the completed questionnaires and provide a written report for a fee of about $50, part of which is shared with the pharmacy. The pharmacist will review the results of the screening and then may be able to recommend and sell nutritional supplements, when appropriate.
“For example, if a patient is taking a statin, we would suggest that the pharmacist recommend CoQ10, because coenzyme Q10 is reduced by statin use,” Taffin said. “So the pharmacist can make extra income through supplement sales.”
Besides general health-status screenings, Wellspring Medical offers pharmacies ECG/EKG and pulmonary function screenings. The pharmacist can use hand-held devices to record the patient’s readings and download them to a computer for Wellspring physicians to evaluate.
“These test results are strictly for screening, not for diagnosing,” said Taffin. “The results can be used by the pharmacist to consult with the patient. Often, if abnormalities are identified, the pharmacist would refer the patient to the primary care physician.”
Cardiac and pulmonary screenings are useful in screening for disease and in testing patients who may be afraid to see a physician or worried about the expense of a physician visit, said Taffin. The pharmacist who has a personal relationship with the patient can review the results and encourage the patient to visit a physician to discuss the screening results. Referrals also help pharmacists build relationships with physicians.
Wellspring Medical also offers a weight management program that incorporates the health-assessment questionnaire and a diet program focusing on natural weight-loss methods. “As part of our current program, the patient purchases meal supplements that can be sold through the pharmacy or sent directly to the patient from our offices,” he said.
At the pharmacy, during weekly or monthly follow-ups, the patient is weighed, and other tests, such as body mass index (BMI), can be made. The pharmacy technician or pharmacist can talk to the patient about the results.
“The advantage of [the follow-up visits] is that they force the patient to the pharmacy, thereby increasing traffic flow. In addition, pharmacists are encouraged to charge a cash consulting fee for the visits,” Taffin said.
Do pharmacists need additional training to be able to offer these programs?
“While pharmacists do not need any extra education, I would recommend that they look at the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine website (www.a4m.com) for training programs in integrative medicine,” he said. “Also, the University of Arizona and Dr. Andrew Weil offer great programs.”
And for pharm techs, the new American Association of Anti-Aging Technology (www.antiagingtechnology.org) provides a course to certify antiaging technicians.
Pharmacies seeking more information can e-mail Taffin at firstname.lastname@example.org.