Imagine sitting in your den, chatting with your pharmacist over a cup of coffee. For one uninterrupted hour it’s just you, your prescription medications and your pharmacist — answering your questions.
In a partnership with national health plan company WellCare Health Plans, Inc., the UF College of Pharmacy is receiving $2.5 million to establish a Medication Therapy Management Call Center. The call center satisfies a government requirement for health-plan providers of the Medicare prescription drug benefit to provide once a year comprehensive medication review with quarterly follow ups, called Medication Therapy Management (MTM).
The importance of the MTM call center is to see if patients follow their medication plans and to identify any non-prescribed drugs the patient could take that may affect other medications, said David Angaran, M.S. a clinical professor at the college and director of the call center.
A pharmacist would have a difficult time having a 30-minute uninterrupted conversation with even one patient a day, Angaran said. Utilizing new MTM patient management software developed by Gold Standard/Elsevier, the call center can better reach thousands of patients to discover details that the patients’ health-care providers may not know.
“When you go to a pharmacy, you get this sense that everyone’s rushing. You’re standing, and you have no privacy,” Angaran said. “Our belief is that the patients open up more because they are in the comfort of their homes.”
Of WellCare’s 800,000 members, the UF Call Center will contact patients who have three or more chronic diseases and take eight or more medications that exceed $3,000 in total costs annually. WellCare provides the call center with records of the patients’ medications and diseases.
Qualified patients are sent a letter informing them that they are automatically included for the service but may opt-out. An appointment call time is scheduled when the patient can have their medications in front of them. Before placing the call, the team reviews the patient’s pharmacy records to identify their prescriptions, potential drug interactions, compliance, and cost issues to assist in the medication review.
After spending 30-60 minutes with each patient and developing a medication action plan, the call center team sends a copy of the plan to the patient and a list of potential drug related issues with possible solutions and references to their physician.
Besides patient care, the call center brings academic and research opportunities to the college.
Teresa Roane, Heather Hardin and Anna Hall, all Pharm.D., and clinical assistant professors in UF’s College of Pharmacy, supervise the 12 student pharmacists and gather data to publish research findings about the effectiveness of the call center’s efforts.
“The students work really well with the technology,” Hardin said. “Because the call center is so new, this is a learning process for all of us, and they are instrumental in the development of the MTM protocols.”
Michele Lawson, an MTM trainer, teaches the students how to be empathetic pharmacy-care consultants, encourages the call center student interns to put their patient-skills to work with this advice:
“You can hear a smile through the phone, so always smile,” she said. “When you’re on the phone you should feel like you’re holding their hand.”