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NEWS: New pharmacy-led healthcare collaboration launches to further patient wellness

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Pharmacy is an important part of the team for chronic disease management pilot project.

By Brian Stutt
What do you get when you bring pharmacists, employers, physicians, patient advocates, public health and wellness providers, pharmaceutical representatives, educators and researchers together? Some new ways of looking at old problems, and a whole lot of opportunity for chronic disease management and prevention.

This diverse gathering happened on January 27 at the City Hall in Kingston, Ontario. It took months of preparation and persuasion, but a common goal brought us together: we want our patients/employees to be healthy and productive, and we can’t do it alone. Cynthia Beach, commissioner of corporate & strategic initiatives at the City of Kingston, who co-hosted the event with me, summed it up well during her presentation: “We’re looking for partners because we all don’t have all the resources. We can create teams that work in different ways…for breakthrough solutions.”

The potential partners were all in the room, and pharmacists were among the keenest to move from talk to action by offering to participate in a pilot project with one or more of the employers. “I definitely see Lovell supporting this,” said Rita Winn, general manager of Lovell Drugs, who attended with several local Lovell pharmacists.

David Graham, owner of Graham’s Pharmacy, has his eye on the big picture. “The profession is not where it needs to be. We need to evolve now, and show that we can save healthcare dollars in the long run. Working with private payers can get the ball rolling.”

Our job is to give that ball a nudge when needed and keep the momentum going. That’s why attendees were asked, after hearing from several presenters who shared success stories and existing resources, whether they’d be willing to be part of a plan for a pilot project. The project will likely focus on diabetes management, with an added focus on increased levels of physical activity.

It was a thrill to see that out of 60 attendees, 41 signed on to engage further in a “Kingston Model.” We created five caucuses for the main stakeholder groups, and the pharmacy caucus is already up and running. It is the largest, with 14 members so far, including representatives for two pharmacy chains. The remaining caucuses are for plan sponsors, primary care physicians, patient groups, pharmaceutical companies and exercise-related providers. Public Health is also on board, as are researchers to help document outcomes.

We’ve clearly struck a chord here in Kingston, because already we have a dozen local stakeholders making sure the momentum continues.

At the meeting we put forward a “Joint Custody” model for chronic disease prevention and management to guide our planning, which was well received. This model puts employees and their families at the centre of healthcare decisions, supported by a network of providers. The underlying premise is really pretty straightforward, though it takes work: we will connect the knowledge pools and the providers and the resources that already exist in the community, and based on the patient’s individual needs and goals, help patients navigate accordingly.

Pharmacists are uniquely positioned to play multiple roles. You are not only medication therapy experts who can work one on one with participating employees, but you also provide convenient points of access for ongoing coaching support, including referrals to other providers and resources. “We could have some fun with it, for instance with walking clubs that are based from the pharmacy,” suggested Winn.

Yes, many questions still need to be answered—including how pharmacists and other providers will be compensated. The good news is we will be able to address these questions as a group, with a common purpose. I’ll keep you posted on our progress, with the hope that the Kingston Model can be adapted and brought to flourish in your community as well.

Brian Stutt is managing director of CommonMarkets, a consulting firm focused on programs for chronic disease management and prevention.