16 Dec

Collaboration among local organizations help improve lives of patients with chronic illness

Collaboration among local organizations help improve lives of patients with chronic illness

An innovative partnership among MVP Health Care, CapitalCare Medical Group, and Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (ACPHS) is taking shape as the organizations work to assess and improve the way medications are utilized by patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. Through the partnership, MVP and ACPHS are funding the addition of a clinical pharmacist to the CapitalCare team who is dedicated to serving the needs of patients with chronic illnesses.

The pharmacist, Ali Watson, works with patients to reduce medication errors and help them understand the complexities that occur when several medications are prescribed at once. Together with a multi-disciplinary team, she monitors patients’ medication therapy holistically, with the assistance of the patients’ physicians, based on all the medical conditions present in each individual.

One area of the program’s focus is on patients who have very complex medical regimens. Large numbers of medications can place patients at increased risk for interactions, side effects, and confusion about what they should be taking. In addition, the cost of these medications can be problematic for patients with limited incomes.

For example, one patient with whom Watson consulted had 26 prescribed medications that she took daily. Watson said, “When I met with her in the office she brought all of her medications with her and we reviewed each one so I could explain its purpose and help determine if it was still necessary. Following this review, I was able to work with her primary care practitioner to reduce or discontinue several medications at a cost savings of more than $75 per month. I also contacted her pharmacy to inform the staff there of the changes so they would no longer dispense these medications to her.”

Watson received her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from ACPHS and completed a post-doctoral residency in ambulatory care at the Stratton VA Hospital in Albany. She has completed certifications in medication therapy management and pharmacist and patient-centered diabetes care and is a certified immunizing pharmacist in New York. She is also an assistant professor at ACPHS.

“The future of healthcare depends upon the seamless collaboration of health plans and physicians. This exciting new relationship with CapitalCare and the college has great potential to improve member health and safety through improved medication use,” said Dominick Bizzarro, executive vice president, business development and informatics at MVP.

The concept of embedding a pharmacist in a clinical setting is in line with national efforts, led by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, to improve the appropriate use of medications for conditions like heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure where dramatic improvements could be made.

“It is increasingly clear that the professional expertise of clinical pharmacists working in ambulatory care enables patients and practitioners to achieve the most benefit from pharmacologic treatment. Support from MVP has helped us to provide this important service here at CapitalCare,” said Lou Snitkoff, M.D., chief medical officer.

“It’s rare in New York State for a health insurer to get involved the way MVP has in this partnership, but it is consistent with what MVP is doing in the community to bring added value to our members,” said Bizzarro.

Watson works to gather data to identify best practices, proposed quality initiatives and value-based designs related to medication reconciliation and transition-of-care services. In addition, she analyzes data related to medication safety, effectiveness, and efficiency; promulgates guidelines for appropriate first-line therapy for common chronic conditions; educates patients and providers regarding optimal use of medications; and recommends lab tests necessary for monitoring outcomes of medication therapy.

“We applaud MVP and CapitalCare for recognizing the key role pharmacists play in improving patient outcomes and are pleased to contribute to this initiative,” said Robert Hamilton, Pharm.D., MPH, dean of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at ACPHS. “By supporting this position, MVP and CapitalCare are not only showing how the pharmacist will play an expanded role in the future health care system, they are underscoring their commitment to outstanding patient care and value-based medicine.”