Pharmacy Care Teams Get to the Heart of the Matter

A clinical pharmacy cardiac risk service in Colorado demonstrates how combining the services of integrated care teams with a system of electronic messages and reminder letters helps cardiac patients keep their cholesterol and blood pressure in check.

More evidence of the crucial role pharmacists play as members of integrated care teams in improving patients' health can be found in new research announced by Kaiser Permanente. In this project, cardiac deaths were reduced by 73% through an innovative program linking coronary artery disease patients and teams of pharmacists, nurses, primary care doctors, and cardiologists with an electronic health record (EHR).

The Clinical Pharmacy Cardiac Risk Service at Kaiser Permanente Colorado combines Kaiser Permanente's HealthConnect EHR with proactive patient outreach, education, lifestyle adjustments, and effective medication management provided by integrated nursing and pharmacy teams working collaboratively with patients. Earlier research showed that participants in the cardiac risk service had an 88% reduced risk of dying of a cardiac-related cause within 90 days of an attack, compared with those not in the program. In addition, the number of patients meeting their cholesterol goal went from 26% to 73%.

For the new study, researchers wanted to find out what would happen to patients after they were discharged from the program, but kept in contact with their caregivers through the EHR. The investigators found that electronic messages and reminder letters helped these patients to keep their lipid and blood pressure levels at controlled, healthy levels.

"The takeaway message here is that we can support patients in maintaining treatment goals and medication adherence, which is often a challenge with most chronic conditions. Using technology and integrated systems already in place, we can help keep patients healthy for longer and deliver continuity of care in a cost-efficient manner," said the study's lead author, Kari L. Olson, PharmD.

The full story appears in the August 2009 issue of The American Journal of Managed Care (www.ajmc.com).