Pharmacy-Based Programs a Win for Patients--February 2009

February 26, 2009
Eileen Koutnik-Fotopoulos

HealthPartners is finding success with a medication therapy management pilot program based on the Asheville Project.

HealthPartners is turning to pharmacists in an effort to help manage patients with diabetes. The pilot program is based on the successful Asheville Project in North Carolina.

The program is for Minnesota state employees and their family members with diabetes who are receiving care at 1 of 15 HealthPartners clinics. If patients participated in free counseling sessions with a licensed clinical pharmacist, they could get their copayments reduced to zero for prescriptions for diabetes supplies such as blood sugar test strips and needles, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

The incentive saved each patient with diabetes an average of $600 a year. Studies show that counseling with a pharmacist identifies an average of 2 drug-related problems for each patient.

“This is a win—win for patients and employers because patients have better health and lower out-of-pocket costs and purchasers can reduce their costs and increase productivity,” said Richard Bruzek, HealthPartners vice president of pharmacy services.

Over a 12-month period, the Bloomington, Minnesota-based organization linked 300 members with pharmacists who counseled them on daily medication habits and changed their doses or brands if necessary. The participants had 39% fewer emergency department visits and 24% fewer hospital admissions, compared with patients who did not participate in the program. In addition, the number of patients who achieved optimal blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar, took daily aspirin, and were tobacco free more than doubled (137%), compared with a 35% increase among patients who did not participate in the program.

“The success of this program lies in the fact that the pharmacist can flag problems between visits to the doctor and help make changes before problems become worse,” said Nathan Moracco, who directs the state employee group insurance plan.

Launched in 1997, the Asheville Project found that counseling patients with diabetes reduced medical costs by $1200 to $1872 per patient per year, decreased absenteeism, and increased productivity.

For other articles in this issue, see:

WV Pharmacists Want Malpractice Suit Protection

Look in the Box: Patients Benefit from Rx Efficacy Data

Retail Pharmacists Experience Violence, Finds NIOSH