Vol. 38, No. 18
By: Julia Harris
‘Partner for Promotion’ is Rx for patient care
Collaboration is the drug of choice in this outreach program that pairs students with community pharmacists
A young mother walks up to the prescription drop-off window at her local Kroger pharmacy. The pharmacist behind the counter greets her by name as she hands over a prescription.
“Your son’s still got that ear infection, huh?” he says as he types up her information.
They talk about cough medications, decongestants and potential side effects of the antibiotic being prescribed. She asks him if antibacterial hand wipes are truly effective in preventing the spread of illness. Then she wanders into the produce section as another person comes up asking about a new diabetes medication.
Welcome to the new face of pharmacy, where quality practice is as much about communicating with patients as it is about dispensing medication.
To Jennifer Rodis, an assistant professor of clinical pharmacy, the changing role of the community pharmacist is an exciting development she is passionate about promoting. For the past three years, she has coordinated a program called Partner for Promotion, which pairs fourth-year pharmacy students with community pharmacists to develop patient education materials, health screenings and other services.
The idea to create the program, Rodis said, was a no-brainer. “Who do we see more often than anyone else in the healthcare profession? It’s our pharmacist,” she said.
“In the last 5-10 years, we’ve been seeing a real trend: People are seeing multiple physicians, they’re not affording their medications so they’re not taking them, and then they’re not sure why they’re taking the pills they do take,” Rodis said.
“Community pharmacists are perfectly suited to sit down with patients and talk with them about their medications: What are they taking, what are they taking it for, what are they on that they don’t really need and what do they need that they aren’t currently taking.”
The evolution of medication management, and the pivotal role of the pharmacist in that management, can be loosely traced to the Medicare legislation passed in 2003, Rodis said. Among other things, the legislation mandated that prescription drug plans pay for programs to ensure the medications are being used correctly.
Who better to provide that service, Rodis asked, than pharmacists, who were already doing some of that on an informal basis?
Working with two other faculty — Julie Legg and Kristin Casper — and funding from an Excellence in Engagement grant, Rodis made the program a vehicle for helping pharmacists and pharmacy students develop resources and procedures for providing patient care services.
For 10 months, one or two Ohio State pharmacy students work closely with a community pharmacist, from a Kroger or CVS pharmacy to an independent business like Foster’s Pharmacy in Mount Vernon, to identify patient education needs — cholesterol screening and education, hypertension adherence programs and diabetes screening and education, for example — and create an advanced patient care service.
“We have a set of online education modules that follow a step-wise approach to developing the patient care service. They’re not the clinical information or therapeutic information on a disease or the drugs, because for the most part the pharmacists already have that,” Rodis said.
“What they might not know is how to do a needs assessment, how to put together a policy and procedures.”
Since 2005, the program has helped implement services in 19 sites across central Ohio and even in Kentucky.
Rodis is proud of a program she says no other college of pharmacy can quite match. At other schools, she explains, it’s typically the faculty who go into the pharmacies, create programs and then let the pharmacists run it. At Ohio State, the hope is that by having pharmacists work with students to develop patient care services specific to their pharmacies, there will be more ownership of that service and a deeper understanding of the process behind creating it.
In support of her argument, she points to some of the outcomes data she’s beginning to gather. “One pharmacist used our program to develop a cholesterol management program, and then right at the end of the student’s rotation, he identified the need to be doing a diabetes education service,” she said.
Kelly Reilly, a practicing pharmacist who participated as a student last year at the Kroger pharmacy at Polaris, agrees that the experience is widely applicable. The program she helped develop, called the Healthy Advantage Program, is a holistic approach to heart health that incorporates blood pressure and cholesterol screenings with “nutrition tours” around the Kroger store to explore good and bad food choices.
“Though it wasn’t up and running when I left, we laid the foundation and I know they’re still working on it this year,” Reilly said. “For me, the Partner for Promotion program gave me a toolbox that I can use no matter what pharmacy setting I end up in. It has made me confident that I can walk in and create a program that makes a difference.”