Pharmacist as 'physician extender' proves successful

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT CVS Caremark's partnership with Polk County, Fla., and the implementation of a program to educate and motivate members to engage in their health care is clearly important on several different levels, including the fact that it scores the value of pharmacists' intervention in disease management.

(THE NEWS: CVS Caremark, Polk County partnership demonstrates role of pharmacist intervention in improving diabetes outcomes. For the full story, click here)

As reported, the Polk County Contract for Care program requires members to be accountable for components of their care. Enrolled Polk County employees work with the CVS Caremark clinical pharmacist, located on-site at the County's employee health clinic, to develop individualized care plans and coordinate regular follow-up. Enrolled members receive co-pay waivers on disease-related medications, as well as related supplies and non-prescription products.

The result: After one year, the program resulted in improvements in key clinical measurements for enrolled members -- decreased glycosylated hemoglobin, a critical measurement of blood sugar levels, and lowered blood pressure levels -- while also reducing emergency room visits and in-patient hospital admissions.

Similar to the now infamous Asheville Project, the Polk County Contract for Care program scores the value of pharmacist intervention in disease management from a health outcome/cost savings standpoint.

The Asheville Project began in 1996 as an effort by the city of Asheville, N.C., a self-insured employer, to provide education and personal oversight for employees with such chronic health problems as diabetes, asthma, hypertension and high cholesterol. It inspired a new health care model for individuals with chronic conditions.

Polk County implemented its Contract for Care program in February of 2005 and, at the end of the first year of the program, 477 members were enrolled and included in the analysis. Self-insured Polk County covers 8,500 Polk County employees and dependents.

The bottom line is that programs like Polk County Florida and the Asheville Project are a win-win situation -- an obvious win for the patient and a win for community pharmacy. Having pharmacists serve such a vital role in helping patients manage their chronic conditions not only further elevates the industry to the front lines of the healthcare debate but also further advances pharmacists as "physician extenders."

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