Pharmacists Optimize the Health Care Experience—Especially for Rare Disease Patients

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Specialty pharmacists give physicians and specialists the opportunity to focus less on non-medical issues and more on the patient and efficiently finding the most optimal therapy.

On the heels of American Pharmacists Month in October, this is an excellent time to continue recognizing and highlighting the role that pharmacists play in our health, communities, and lives.

Regularly interacting more frequently with patients than prescribing medical professionals, pharmacists help patients avoid dangerous drug interactions and adverse health effects. They also serve as trusted health advisors and help patients understand their medication regimens in a way that optimizes compliance and health outcomes.

These hard-working professionals are in a unique position to improve medication safety because they have the time and clinical expertise to make a difference in the way patients manage chronic conditions for which they may be taking multiple medications.

What’s more, pharmacists represent an affordable and accessible health care resource. For many patients, it is probably easier to consult with a pharmacist than with a physician.

Often, pharmacists serve as an essential first point of care for many individuals. This is especially true for rare disease patients who may be taking their first steps on a long, complicated, and challenging journey to better health.

Pharmacists Understand Specialty Challenges

Eighty-two percent of those prescribed specialty therapies reported spending an hour on the phone coordinating care to begin their therapy, with more than one-third spending at least 3 hours.1 In fact, medication access and adherence challenges can be so onerous for specialty patients, up to 27% of prescriptions and therapies are abandoned or never started at all.

Traditionally, hub support programs and specialty patient workflows have been designed to mitigate significant challenges. But their potential impact is too often compromised by patient low awareness of services and minimal connectivity.

Many times, providers are cut off from the patient journey once they’ve prescribed therapy or enrolled the patient into the manufacturer-sponsored patient services. This has resulted in treatment delays of up to 8 weeks, which can lead to deteriorating health and worsening symptoms among these vulnerable patients.1

Optimizing Care for Rare Orphan Disease Patients

Pharmacists working in a patient-first environment, which means they put the needs of every patient at the center of the care process, help to ensure the best possible health outcome. By putting the patient first, specialty-focused pharmacists are better able to support patients so that they can achieve an optimal patient experience.

A patient and pharmacy management organization can also aid physicians in helping their rare disease patients overcome a number of complications, especially in dealing with insurance coverage, misdiagnosis, and lack of streamlined information.

Specialty patients, who often feel isolated and have difficulty finding a physician who understands their disease, need this added layer of support to find the right medication. Many find considerable reassurance when dealing with a pharmacist who offers disease-specific expertise.

These specialists help patients untangle challenges and provide much-needed, ongoing support. Furthermore, specialty pharmacists give physicians and specialists the opportunity to focus less on non-medical issues and more on the patient and efficiently finding the most optimal therapy.

They provide education, resources, and are there for medical specialists to provide additional insight for enhanced treatment, as well as a high level of understanding and knowledge that helps them transcend clinical and communication obstacles. As part of the care team, they play a key role in optimizing specialty treatment and improving clinical outcomes and quality of life.

Finding the Right Specialty Pharmacist

It’s important to find a patient and pharmacy management partner that offers dedicated pharmacy teams with expertise in each therapy area. They can deliver an elevated level of personalized care that specialty patients and their families require to maximize the benefits of their therapy. These pharmacists provide ongoing support and peace of mind. What’s more, they are readily available for consultation and prepared to head-off safety issues.

Look for dedicated pharmacy teams that provide comprehensive resources to help physicians and staff meet the needs of their patients. They should also offer extensive knowledge of the insurance environment to ensure that patients begin therapy quickly and receive the best coverage option.

These professionals can also offer assurance to payers that they are doing the right thing for their patients. A focus on specialty disorders and personalized care programs optimizes care and maximizes therapy benefits.

Most importantly, patients and loved ones benefit from a patient and pharmacy management partner who understands how to improve patient quality of life through appropriate services and therapies. A patient-first model means ongoing communication and support whenever it’s needed for long-term well-being.

About the Authors

Donovan Quill, President and CEO, Optime Care.

Brandon Salke, PharmD, pharmacist-in-charge, Optime Care.

REFERENCE

1. Pharmacuetical Commerce; Specialty access barriers: How technology can help (pharmaceuticalcommerce.com); accessed October 15, 2021.