Redefining Person-Centered Care: Lessons from an Independent Pharmacy

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Person-centered care focuses on tailoring treatment plans, providing medication support, and ensuring access to resources that meet their unique needs.

One of the most significant health care trends in recent years has been the recognition of the importance of person-centered care. Nowhere is this shift more crucial than in the field of behavioral health, in which a one-size-fits-all approach simply doesn't work.

Image credit: motortion | stock.adobe.com

Image credit: motortion | stock.adobe.com

As a buzzword, person-centered care has come to mean responsiveness to the wants of the individual. In the realm of behavioral health, person-centered care is more about recognizing that the needs of every individual are different.

Person-centered care, then, focuses on tailoring treatment plans, providing medication support, and ensuring access to resources that meet those unique needs. Those 3 things need to be specifically addressed for the individual you're dealing with in order to empower that person.

Right now is a pivotal point in behavioral health.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, in 2021, 1 in 20 US adults experienced some form of serious mental illness, and more than 16% of youth were dealing with a mental health disorder.1 As stigma decreases and awareness increases, we can expect these numbers to continue growing.

Unfortunately, instead of increasing to meet demand, behavioral health staff numbers have declined since the 2020 pandemic. Staffing shortages threaten to cause burnout and a decline in care for the people they serve.2

Due to these societal changes, our industry is getting a lot of attention, which can lead to funding opportunities and greater outreach. Those opportunities come with heavy expectations. We will only have one chance to showcase the power of person-centered care.

If the outcomes do not match the hype, people may start to believe that the funding does not matter or the approach is not worthwhile. In reality, this moment and the funding that goes with it matter a great deal. Ensuring that we address the 3 pillars of person-centered care is the best way to truly help people and to fulfill the potential of the system designed to help them.

How we care for the vulnerable populations seeking behavioral health support now will set the tone for the future of our industry, health care as a whole, and the rest of society. With that in mind, I’d like to present 3 anecdotal case studies from my own experience, and talk about the challenges we face, the lessons learned, and what we can hope for in the future.

Exemplifying Person-Centered Care: Three Case Studies

As an independent pharmacy, we serve thousands of people whose lives have been changed by person-centered care focused on tailored treatment plans, medication support, and access to the right resources. For this article, I chose to highlight 3 cases that showcase each of those principles in action. All cases have been de-identified for the privacy of the individual.

The Role of Tailored Treatment Plans

Tailored treatment plans can help individuals overcome substance use disorder (SUD). People with SUDs have unique backgrounds, genetics, co-occurring mental health issues, and social circumstances. A tailored treatment plan takes into account these individual factors to address the specific needs of each person.

For example, Paul has been addicted to drugs since the age of 14. Over the years, he has been in and out of rehab facilities and jail––always to be failed by a system that wasn’t serving his unique needs. When he walked into an agency focused on what he needed as an individual, everything turned around for Paul.

He received a proper diagnosis and support to help him maintain his physician appointments, the right medication combination, and a new outlook on life. Paul is now on track to get his GED and plans to move on to trade school to get his mechanic’s license. Thanks to the agency and our partnership, his dreams of becoming a racecar mechanic now seem possible, and he has a bright future in front of him.

A one-sized-fits-all approach to treatment did not work for Paul. He needed a different set of options tailored to his individual challenges. Once that was in place, everything else began to follow.

Research consistently shows that personalized treatment plans lead to better outcomes. By addressing the root causes of an individual's SUD, their treatment plan can be more effective in reducing drug or alcohol use, preventing relapse, and improving overall well-being.

Empowering Independence with Technology-Based Medication Support

New technology can revolutionize the delivery of mental health and SUD service, ultimately leading to improved treatment outcomes and better overall well-being. The case of Diana illustrates how home-based technological support provides hope in difficult situations.

Diana lives alone without a natural support system. Major depression had made her nearly homebound. At times, her anxiety would become so unbearable that she would take all of her anxiety medication early, leaving her without treatment for the rest of the day. This led to thoughts of suicide, repeat visits to the emergency department, hospitalizations, and other crisis services.

Eventually, Diana received assertive community services in her city, and was given a Medherent device, a smart medication vending machine that helps consumers achieve independence by ensuring they have only the medication that is needed at the proper time. Diana has since been able to completely avoid crises and hospitalizations.

Self-managing medications was not the right fit for Diana, but a person-centered medication support solution has allowed her to continue to be independent, even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.

Medication Access to Improve Quality of Life

Access to the right medications can significantly improve a person's quality of life. Medications can alleviate distressing symptoms, improve sleep, enhance mood, reduce anxiety, and increase the ability to focus and function. However, the positive impacts of these medications are only possible when they are accessible. People struggling with a behavioral health disorder need a team on their side that can help them access their medications in a timely manner.

Lucy, a young woman who takes medications to control behavioral health conditions, suffers from the adverse effect of tardive dyskinesia. As a result, uncontrolled and unwanted movements threatened to jeopardize her dream wedding. When Lucy’s physician ran out of medication samples while her family was still struggling to get insurance to approve her prescription, Lucy feared the celebration would have to be postponed.

Fortunately, Lucy’s physician reached out to our team for help. Our flexible team was able to focus on Lucy, expedite the prior authorization process and get her prescription approved and filled. As a result, Lucy was able to get her medication in time and walk down the aisle just as she had planned.

In each of these cases, the person-centered care approach won out to provide the individual with the unique treatment plan, resources and medication that they needed to avoid disaster.

The Future of Person-Centered Care in Behavioral Health

Envision a future in which person-centered care is the standard in behavioral health. As outcomes become more closely linked to individual needs, the momentum for person-centered care will continue to grow. The success of this approach will reinforce its value and drive further commitment to making it the cornerstone of care for individuals with behavioral health needs.

Person-centered care in the complex realm of behavioral health is the opposite of a one-size-fits-all solution. To truly empower individuals with behavioral health needs, we must tailor treatment plans, provide medication support, and ensure access to resources based on their unique requirements. By doing so, we can improve outcomes, make the best use of available resources, and pave the way for a future where person-centered care is the norm, not the exception.

About the Author

Eric Elliott serves as Chief Executive Officer at Altruix, a high-touch long-term care and specialty pharmacy providing services for behavioral health and intellectual developmental disability providers. Eric is also Lead Independent Director at Welldyne, a full-service pharmacy benefit manager servicing membership through health plan and employer direct agreements. Prior to these roles, Eric led three organizations operating in the pharmacy benefit management industry. In his most recent operating role, he was Prime Therapeutics President and Chief Executive Officer (April 2010 - April 2015). Eric also held the roles of president at Cigna Pharmacy Management and president at Aetna Pharmacy Management. He received his bachelor’s degree in management and finance, and a Master of Business Administration from Temple University in Philadelphia. He served for many years on the board of directors at Prime Therapeutics, the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, Main Street America (a super-regional property and casualty insurance provider), Voluntis S.A., and the Twin Cities American Heart Association.

References

  1. Mental health by the numbers. NAMI. (n.d.). https://www.nami.org/mhstats#:~:text=22.8%25%20of%20U.S.%20adults%20experienced,represents%201%20in%2020%20adults.
  2. New Study: Behavioral Health Workforce Shortage Will Negatively Impact Society. National Council for Mental Wellbeing. (2023, April 25). https://www.thenationalcouncil.org/news/help-wanted
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