‘Pharmacists are a critical part of a patient’s treatment plan. They provide education, monitor diseases & help manage medication side effects & complications—all things that are often hard for physicians to cover in a 15-minute appointment.’ —Donald Miller, PharmD
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Explore This IssueMay 2019
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Providing Enhanced Education to Patients
During a rheumatology appointment, a lot of information needs to be covered in a short amount of time, and Dr. Miller says it’s not uncommon for patients to think of additional medication questions after they’ve left their appointment. By providing medication counseling and education, pharmacists can help bridge the gap between patients and rheumatologists.
Because pharmacists are well educated in both prescription and over-the-counter medications, Dr. Miller says they can help patients better understand their prescriptions, answer specific questions and address any concerns.
“Since rheumatologists often have limited time with patients, they might not be able to address all of the questions a patient has about their medications,” Dr. Miller says. “For example, many RA patients who are starting methotrexate for the first time want to know about potential side effects, how long it will take for the medication to start working and the difference between methotrexate pills and shots.”
Assisting with Prior Authorizations
Dr. Miller says another way pharmacists can free up physician time is by assisting with the prior authorization (PA) process for prescription medications.
“The process of obtaining a PA can be very time consuming,” Dr. Miller says.
Pharmacists assist in the process, and Ms. Ramey says they can also speed up the process.
“In a retrospective review of patient records followed in the rheumatology clinics at the University of Kentucky, we found that adding a pharmacist to initiate and track the PA process decreased the time to PA from 52 days to 6.43 days,” Ms. Ramey says, citing an abstract that she and her colleagues presented at the 2017 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting.2
Assisting with the PA process also allows pharmacists to determine if the patient is able to afford the medication, says Dr. Farrell.
“We try to find the right balance between the right medication for the patient based on their clinical status and the affordability of their insurance,” she says.
Thanks to the expansion of electronic prior authorization (ePA) by the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs, many pharmacists can now electronically initiate and handle pre-approval or prior authorization (PA) with health plans in real time, which expedites the dispensing of prescriptions.