Pharmacists: Making A Difference for Patients with Financial Issues
The job of a pharmacist entails way more than just counting pills.
Most people think that a pharmacist only stands behind the counter and counts pills, slapping labels on bottles, and sending people on their way. This is a false belief as pharmacists do many tasks such as checking for drug interactions and allergies, calling physicians about medication orders, recommending additional therapies, and helping patients with self-care recommendations. These are only a few tasks that pharmacists complete on a daily basis as they play a big part in the health care team.
A lot of people fail to realize is that pharmacists also play a huge role helping patients with their financial issues. Pharmacists do this by finding patients cheaper alternatives that may be covered by their insurances, finding them discount cards whether on a manufacturers website or through their companies portal, or offering patients services that overall help them save money and improve their quality of care.
Medication Therapy Management (MTM)
MTM is just one of the services a pharmacist can provide that will save their patients money. MTM promotes the safe and effective use of medications by providing collaboration between the patient, the pharmacist, and the other health care providers involved. This service consists of multiple components designed to improve outcomes and lower costs.
As a part of MTM, the pharmacist will conduct a comprehensive review of the patient’s medications; this includes prescription, nonprescription, herbal products, and dietary supplements. This will give the pharmacist a chance to see if there are any unnecessary therapies on the list and assessing whether eliminiating that medication could save the patient money. If a patient has multiple comorbidities and is being treated by several doctors, most likely at least one of the therapies will be unnecessary or may interact with another medication the patient is taking due to lack of communication within the health care team. MTM services enforce communication between all health care providers treating the patient as part of the provision offered. During the review, the patient can discuss any issues or concerns they have regarding the medications, a big one being cost and accessibility.
If a therapy is identified as necessary, but cost is an issue, the pharmacist can then contact the doctor with a cheaper alternative recommendation that works similar to the more expensive agent. Sometimes there are cases where the patient may be taking 2 separate agents that come in a single product. The pharmacist can then call the physician to get this patient switched over to the combination agent, this may not only save the patient money but also improve adherence. During the MTM visit, the pharmacist may also analyze the patient's health insurance plan and can advise whether or not switching plans may save the patient money. The pharmacist may also identify medications that may have a generic alternative. Switching from a brand medication to a generic can save a patient hundreds of dollars. Generic medications are manufactured and held to the same standards as brand medications. These medications also cost a lot less and are more likely to be covered by insurances.
Pharmacists may also recommend patients to fill 90 day prescriptions and as part of the MTM service they will then contact the physician for the patient to get the quantity switched. Ninety-day prescriptions may save patients money as they will only have 1 co-pay as opposed to 3. These prescriptions are also more convenient to the patient and can save them gas money as well because now the patient only needs to make one trip to the pharmacy every 3 months rather than a monthly trip with the standard 30-day prescriptions. Pharmacists also work very closely with physicians and other members in the health care team, especially when providing MTM services. With that being said, pharmacists may be able to talk to the patient’s physicians to see if there are any samples that they would be able to provide the patient to save them money. If samples are not available, sometimes discount cards are provided to the patient which they can then bring to the pharmacy in order to reduce costs of medications.
Brown Bag Consults
Brown bag consults are a similar service offered to patients by pharmacists to save patients money and improve outcomes by eliminating unnecessary therapies or potentially adding on an additional therapy. In order to conduct a brown bag consult, patients are asked to bring in a bag full of all their medications; this includes prescription, non-prescription over-the-counter products, herbals, and vitamins. The pharmacist will then go through each medication with the patient making sure they know the name, what the medication is for, how they are supposed to take it, and the importance of adherence. After this information has been established, the pharmacist can then dig deeper in order to come up with a plan using the methods discussed above in order to save the patient money and improve overall therapy.
Chronic Care Management (CCM)
CCM is another service provided by pharmacists that offers patients that have multiple significant chronic conditions non-face-to-face services to improve patient outcomes and further reduce costs by analyzing treatment methods. The program consists of talking to the patients for a minimum of 20 minutes per month where the pharmacist communicates with not only the patients but the other health care providers to coordinate care and offer the patients additional health services that they may need. Like the other two services discussed above, the pharmacist also reviews the patient’s records in order to eliminate unnecessary therapy, add additional treatment when needed, and switch patients to 90-day therapies to save them money in the long run.
The job of a pharmacist entails way more than just counting pills in fact they tend to save patients money with various services provided at the pharmacy. Some common services that are available are discussed above and focus on improving outcomes and reducing costs for patients. If a patient has multiple chronic conditions and is on several medications, these services may provide them with great benefits and could end up saving them hundreds of dollars.