Ten Tips for MTM success

October 22, 2007

Pharmacists share tips for successful medication therapy management programs.

All right, so you get it: medication therapy management is a great new opportunity. But how do you get started and how do you do it successfully? Recently the American Pharmacists Association and National Association of Chain Drug Stores held a two-day conference in Philadelphia that aimed to address these questions.

Whereas, in the past, conferences and sessions have sought to introduce the concept of MTM to pharmacists and encourage them to get involved, this conference focused on the best practices from successful MTM programs. Independent, chain, and clinic pharmacists discussed what has worked, and what has not in the MTM programs they have developed. Below are 10 key take-aways from the conference, according to the speakers.

1. Have a plan. Don't expect to get rich quick with MTM. Having a concrete plan that recognizes the costs, ensures that all personnel are properly trained, and understands the current and potential sources of revenue will be essential to make the program work. In all likelihood, it will take years to build MTM into a successful part of your business, so be prepared for the long haul.

3. Talk to other healthcare providers. While most pharmacists understand the importance of MTM in improving medication use and adherence, don't assume that other health professionals get it. Before talking to a patient, pharmacists should contact the patient's primary care physicians and explain what MTM is and why it is important. And if the doctor doesn't want to listen, consider talking to nurses and other staff members and elicit their help.

4. Provide incentives. While most people involved in MTM today are spurred on by professional responsibility, for MTM to be successful across the industry there need to be other incentives for people to get involved. MTM will take additional time and effort from pharmacists, so pharmacies have to determine how to fairly compensate for the additional work.

5. Get the staff involved. To build an efficient program, pharmacists should not be doing everything. Find ways to divide up tasks to include support staff. Technicians can schedule appointments, and Kroger, for example, has a single billing specialist that handles most billing.

6. Think about the patient. The key to success for any MTM program is the patient, and even little things can have an impact. According to Mary Ann Kliethermes, Pharm.D., MTM clinical manager and assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, her clinic had better success after it remodeled its rooms and removed the desk separating the pharmacist from the patient. Just as important, make sure take-home materials are easy to understand. This may mean creating customized handouts.

7. Document, document, document. There are no standards for MTM documentation yet, but don't let that stop you. Make sure you have records of not only what you discussed with the patient, but also any correspondence or other conversation with other healthcare providers. According to Winston Wong, associate VP of pharmacy management for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, health insurers are paying close attention to the return on investment for MTM. Documentation will help make that case.

8. Communicate well. It is equally important that pharmacists communicate clearly to their patient and other healthcare providers. Randy McDonough, Pharm.D., co-owner and director of clinical services at Towncrest and Medical Plaza Pharmacies in Iowa City, Iowa, makes "recommendations" rather than "suggestions" for changing medications to remove the chance that a doctor would ignore the suggestion. McDonough also created standardized forms so that doctors can check off whether or not to institute the recommendations.

9. Market MTM. Although MTM is not exactly new, many patients and doctors haven't even heard of it. The more you educate payers, patients, and other healthcare providers, the more likely you'll see referrals come your way. As people become more familiar with MTM, additional marketing opportunities will open up.

10. Take advantage of technology. A number of MTM programs already have migrated on-line, and more billing and documentation are sure to follow. Integrating MTM into personal healthcare records or e-prescribing will only improve efficiency and quality of care for patients.