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Study: Pharmacist adherence interventions help lower overall health costs

BY Michael Johnsen

PITTSBURGH – Community pharmacists can dramatically help their patients stick to their prescription regimens, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy. The findings, reported Monday in Health Affairs, also suggest that greater adherence to medications can lead to a reduction in emergency room visits and hospital admissions, thereby lowering healthcare costs for a variety of chronic conditions, including diabetes and asthma.
 
About 70% of all Medicare patients get their prescriptions filled at neighborhood drug stores, but pharmacists can do more for patients than just prepare medications, said lead investigator Janice Pringle, associate professor and director of the Program Evaluation and Research Unit, or PERU, at Pitt's School of Pharmacy. She noted their training, knowledge and community accessibility perhaps makes them the ideal health professionals to help people learn how and why to take their medications.
 
"This untapped resource could be harnessed and used to improve public health and reduce overall healthcare costs," Pringle said. "If people took their medications as prescribed, diabetes would not evolve and worsen, blood pressure would normalize, cholesterol would be reduced dramatically and the risk for severe health problems, such as heart attack or stroke, would be reduced. Patients would live longer and probably enjoy a higher quality of life."
 
For the study, dubbed the Pennsylvania Project, 283 community pharmacists were trained at short workshops by PERU staff to ask customers a few quick questions about medication adherence using established survey tools. They also were taught to have a brief dialog with patients whose screening scores indicated they were at risk of not taking their medications as prescribed by their doctors. The conversation might include questions and reassurances about side effects or to request that the patient talk to the pharmacist after taking the medication for a little while to report how they were feeling.
 
During 2011, 29,042 people had prescriptions filled at 107 Rite Aid pharmacies that implemented the screening and brief intervention approach, or SBI, and 30,454 people who went to 111 "control" pharmacies that didn't use SBI.
 
The research team then reviewed insurance claims data to evaluate medication adherence with a measure called "Proportion of Days Covered," or PDC. A PDC of 80%, meaning the medication was taken for at least 80% of the expected period, is considered to be the minimal medication dose needed to achieve the desired clinical outcome. PDC80 values were calculated for both the intervention year and for 2010, the year prior to SBI implementation.
 
For the five classes of common medications the researchers reviewed, PDC80 rates increased in the SBI group during the intervention compared to the control group, ranging from 3.1% for beta blockers to treat high blood pressure to 4.8% for oral diabetes drugs. About 75% of the net improvement was due to patients who were at high risk for poor medication adherence achieving the PDC80 benchmark after the intervention. Healthcare costs dropped by $341 annually per person for SBI patients taking oral diabetes drugs and by $241 for SBI patients taking statins to lower cholesterol.
 
"The cost savings demonstrated by the Pennsylvania Project should draw the attention of many payers to the value of leveraging pharmacists in the community where their members live to improve health and wellness and reduce overall healthcare costs," said study co-author Jesse McCullough, director of field clinical services at Rite Aid. "This is another area where the value of the pharmacist to the healthcare system is demonstrated."
 
"High quality medical care is a 'team sport' involving physicians and other providers, nurses, care managers, health plans and well-trained pharmacists," said Michael Madden, VP and chief medical officer at Gateway Health Plan, which provided pharmacy claims data for the study. "Improving medication adherence rates improves quality, public health and saves money, and this study demonstrates the value pharmacists can add."
 
"The Pennsylvania Project demonstrated that realizing untapped clinical performance value from a network of pharmacies is as much about the ability of a health plan to foster a supportive environment as it is about the ability of a pharmacy to execute an improvement effort," wrote study co-author Mark Conklin, VP at Pharmacy Quality Solutions. "The relationship between the two entities, based on shared objectives and continuous learning, is the key ingredient."
 
 

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AmerisourceBergen’s ThoughtSpot 2014 draws record attendance

BY Michael Johnsen

LAS VEGAS — ThoughtSpot 2014, AmerisourceBergen and Good Neighbor Pharmacy’s annual tradeshow, concluded this weekend after four days of programming focused on helping independent pharmacies navigate industry changes caused by healthcare reform. Through various exhibits, networking sessions, workshops and trainings, independent pharmacists received resources and tools to transform their business and deliver the next phase of patient care. This year’s show attracted nearly 70% more customers and pharmacy representatives than last year, making ThoughtSpot 2014 the most successful conference to date, AmerisourceBergen announced Wednesday. 
 
“At Good Neighbor Pharmacy, we know that independent pharmacies feel uncertain in the new healthcare environment and are ready to transform their business,” stated Dave Neu, president of AmerisourceBergen Drug Co. “With transformation comes inherent risk, but more importantly, it presents significant opportunity. Independent pharmacies have the ability to leverage their unique value and uncertainty to drive growth. At ThoughtSpot, we show pharmacists that Good Neighbor Pharmacy has the resources to transform their business and respond to industry changes through knowledge, reach and partnership.” 
 
Healthcare reform has forced all roles within the industry to evolve, including the expanding role of independent pharmacists. Pharmacists stay up-to-date through educational opportunities that allow them to keep pace with new and growing expectations. At ThoughtSpot, community pharmacists were able to select and attend a number of continued learning courses on a variety of topics ranging from pharmacy solutions to CMS Star Measures to patient retention and investment strategies. Workshops and training sessions were held to provide attendees with support and information on how to leverage new and existing technologies and systems to enhance daily operations and patient interactions. 
 
In an increasingly mobile world, pharmacists are looking for digital solutions to help them connect with patients more quickly and support overall business operations. A number of new digital platforms were announced during the show, and customers could experience the programs live to learn more about the practical application in the pharmacy setting:
 
  • MyGNP Mobile App: The new app will allow for online prescription refills, and feature a store locator as well as health news;
  • Mobile friendly version of Good Neighbor Pharmacy website: The current website will now be optimized for use on all mobile devices;
  • Good Neighbor Pharmacy University: This new learning portal will offer customers training and educational opportunities that can be accessed and assigned to staff members. The interactive communication feature will let customers engage with peers who also are signed into the portal;
  • The Digital Pharmacist: A social media management program provided by our partner RxWiki. The free for NCPA members program will help customers manage their Facebook pages, revise their Google Local listings and improve their presence online; and
  • Yelp!: Good Neighbor Pharmacy will now be featured on the social media advertising app. All Good Neighbor Pharmacy members will be listed and will receive preferred pricing on advertising and profile management.
“The energy and excitement at ThoughtSpot followed pharmacists from the general session to the exhibit floor and their engagement with vendors,” said Dutch Atchley, a long-time ThoughtSpot attendee, pharmacist and owner of Ojai Rexall Drugs in Ojai, Calif. “AmerisourceBergen, Good Neighbor Pharmacy and the pharmacists here are committed to shaping the future of pharmacy, and I plan to use the tools I have acquired here to prepare for outcomes-based pharmacy and expand patient care services.” 
 
On Friday, Aug. 1, Good Neighbor Pharmacy presented Harry Race Pharmacy with the Pharmacy of the Year Award. Harry Race Pharmacy was selected through an integrated digital campaign on GoodNeighborPharmacy.com and the Good Neighbor Pharmacy Facebook page. Patients, peers, neighbors, families and friends were able to vote online after watching a short video on three finalists, who were selected across the country. 
 
“The evolving healthcare landscape presents unique issues and opportunities for community pharmacies,” said AJ Caffentzis, president of community and specialty pharmacy. “ThoughtSpot’s mission to arm independent pharmacists with practices and resources to enhance patient care and profitability. At this year’s conference, we focused on critical issues to give independent pharmacists the tools they need to learn, optimize and grow.” 
 

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BD Medical launches BD AutoShield Duo, featuring patented dual front- and back-end shields

BY Michael Johnsen

FRANKLIN LAKES, N.J. — BD Medical, a segment of BD, on Wednesday announced the retail pharmacy launch of BD AutoShield Duo, the only pen needle with patented dual front- and back-end shields that provides greater convenience and safety before and after injecting. The technology conceals the needle, helping to alleviate pre-injection anxiety while helping to reduce the risk of accidental needle stick for patients who inject insulin or other diabetes drugs.

 
The BD AutoShield Duo pen needle is easier to use because there is no inner needle shield to manage and no re-capping necessary, allowing people to dispose of the pen needle in a sharps container when it's convenient to help avoid risk of an accidental needle stick. A front shield automatically covers the needle before and after an injection, and a second shield passively covers the back end needle after injection. Additionally, the front shield helps conceal the needle to reduce injection-related anxiety. Many prescribers and pharmacists have reported that a less visible needle may reduce stress and other potential psychological barriers associated with injection for some patients.
 
"Diabetes is a self-managed disease that requires constant monitoring and involvement to achieve personal goals. By simplifying the steps, BD AutoShield Duo pen needles can help make insulin injection easier, safer and more convenient than ever before," said Ranjeet Banerjee, worldwide president, BD Medical – Diabetes Care. "The U.S. launch of the BD AutoShield Duo pen needle is the latest example of BD's commitment to innovation to simplify the management of diabetes for people around the world."
 
In addition to helping reduce the risk of accidental needle sticks, BD AutoShield Duo pen needles include audible and visual cues for a more confident injection experience. The front shield clicks to indicate that the needle has fully penetrated the skin, and a red band appears when the injection is completed, while the back-end shield covers the rear needle point when the pen needle is removed from the pen.
 
BD AutoShield Duo pen needles support the current American Association of Diabetes Educators practice advisory for injection technique guidelines calling for the use of shorter needles, proper site rotation and using needles only one time. It is compatible with all diabetes injection pens on the market today.
 
BD announced the retail pharmacy launch of the BD AutoShield Duo pen needle today at the American Association of Diabetes Educators Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida. The product is now available nationwide at major retailers and distributors.
 

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