You probably have a doctor, lawyer, mechanic, handyman, and dentist; do you have a pharmacist? In many instances, pharmacy services are received at the pharmacy when the prescription is dispensed. Beyond this encounter there is no further contact with a pharmacist until the medication is refilled or a new one is prescribed. The concept of a personal pharmacist goes beyond the initial consultation received when the medication is dispensed. The value of pharmacists as health care providers beyond dispensing functions has been recognized and written about for many years but this value did not translate to the community setting. For instance the Veterans Administration (VA), Kaiser Permanente, and several teaching institutions implemented pharmacist run ambulatory clinics many years ago and where able to demonstrate the value of pharmacists in improving health care, decreasing cost, and improving the safe and effective use of medications. Pharmacists participate in the care plan as part of the medical team in many hospitals. In fact, when the medical team visits a hospital patient, one team member may be a pharmacist. Why it has taken so long for the concept of pharmacists as health care providers in the community beyond dispensing functions to be implemented is multi-factorial and beyond the scope of this discussion. It is probably a combination of our health care reimbursement system, the ability of pharmacists to influence health care policy, and lack of demand from patients. Fortunately, Medicare Part D contains a Medication Therapy Management (MTM) requirement which is now driving the provision of pharmacy consulting services for outpatients and in other settings.
What is Medication Therapy Management (MTM)?
Medication Therapy Management (MTM) is active management of drug therapy by pharmacists so that patients obtain maximal benefits from their medications. Medication Therapy Management (MTM) can be practiced in any setting where patients receive medications. Examples include the hospital, nursing home, community pharmacy, clinics, and the patient's home. The core components of Medication Therapy Management (MTM)include a detailed review of all medications (prescription, over-the-counter, herbal supplements), consultations with prescribers and other health care providers, patient counseling, education and ongoing monitoring. Medication Therapy Management (MTM) usually results in better outcomes and reduced cost.
Who is a Personal Pharmacist?
A personal pharmacist is any pharmacist that provides Medication Therapy Management (MTM). They provide face-to-face comprehensive medication consultation and bill for this service. Personal pharmacists may also be known as pharmacy consultants, Medication Therapy Management (MTM) consultants, ambulatory pharmacists, and several other designations. They may be PharmDs (Doctors of Pharmacy) or Registered Pharmacists (RPh) without a doctorate degree. Some also specialize in managing specific health conditions (e.g., heart disease, HIV, diabetes) or patient populations (e.g., seniors).
Who needs a Personal Pharmacist and why?
Anyone who is taking medications should have a personal pharmacist. It is even more crucial for those receiving chronic medication treatment, multiple medications, and medications that require careful titration or blood level monitoring. Medications have complex effects on the body and by definition are dangerous because they modify how the body works; when used appropriately they save life and reduce pain and suffering. Mismanagement of medications and medication related issues cause approximately 1.5 million preventable adverse events each year, costing $177 billion.
How do you find Personal Pharmacists?
In the outpatient setting personal pharmacists are in chain pharmacies, independent pharmacies, clinics, and stand-alone consulting offices. Some personal pharmacists even make house calls. To find a personal pharmacist ask your doctor to refer you to a personal pharmacist, inquire at your local pharmacy if they provide personal pharmacy services (MTM Services), ask your insurance company, and check your local yellow pages. Personal pharmacists are also online and can be found via Google and in social networks such as FaceBook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. You can also use our growing resource list of personal pharmacists to find one in your area.
How do you Pay for Personal Pharmacy Services?
Several health insurance companies, Medicare, private insurance, employer sponsored insurance plans now provide coverage for personal pharmacy services. Check with your insurance company whether they provide personal pharmacy benefits and what they cover. If they do not cover personal pharmacy services ask them why and when they will begin to provide this service. Many patients also pay out of pocket for their services. Personal pharmacist charges vary amongst consultants and is influenced by the type of services provided, where the consultation takes place (home visit versus consultants office), length of the consultation, and additional follow up needed with other health care providers.
We should all celebrate that pharmacy practice has moved into a new era and we can all receive Medication Therapy Management (MTM). What are you waiting for? Go find your personal pharmacist today!
American Pharmacist Association: Medication Therapy Management. Accessed 1/22/2012.