Pharmacists in Canada are grappling with an increasing volume of calls, longer wait times and reduced adherence. Many are turning to the appointment-based model (ABM) as an effective solution.
By donalee Moulton
Illustration by Martin Bregman
Inherent in that model are two components: Medication synchronization and setting regular “appointments”. First we will explore medication synchronization, which enables the pharmacy team to streamline care and shift to a more efficient workflow. “With synchronization you are more proactive and demands on the pharmacy are reduced,” says John Sykora, a California pharmacist who pioneered ABM in the United States more than two decades ago.
Importantly, he adds, med sync can also help to improve patient adherence.
#1. Patient identification and enrolment
A medication review, if applicable for the patient, can be a great starting place; however, it is not necessary to begin the process of med synchronization. Focus first on patients currently taking three to five chronic medications. They are easy to sync and will serve as a strong foundation when you move on to patients with more prescriptions.
It’s helpful when screening profiles to start with patients filling their medications on different dates or those who are consistently late or early for refills, advises Sykora. “Keep it simple and grow the program over time.”
Also, in the beginning, working with patients you know is an easy way to gain confidence and to establish a comfort level with the processes, communications and routines needed to be successful. As well, it is important to have an identification system in place to keep track of the patient’s next fill and pick-up dates.
#2. Medication synchronization
Tools of the trade
Some key resources can help you move seamlessly and effectively to a med sync system. These include:
- Binder to help organize patient information
- Call-back file to track patients easily
- Quick guide the pharmacy team can use as a reference when questions arise
- Physician contact file to organize requests while waiting to hear back from doctors
- Medication refill history to identify any changes
If you’d like more information on med synchronization: The American Pharmacists Association Foundation has produced Pharmacy’s Appointment Based Model: Implementation Guide for Pharmacy Practices, which can be found here
Jesse McCullough, director of business development and pharmacy initiatives with a national U.S. pharmacy chain, points out that pharmacists today have an advantage moving to a med sync system. “Software advances and enhancements are helping pharmacists tremendously with med sync. There are tools – we just have to use them,” he says.
But the real key to putting a med sync system in place is taking the first step, stresses McCullough. “There is really not a whole lot that stands in your way.”
Med sync pays off for patients and pharmacists
The benefits of med sync are immediate – and significant. Med sync programs have been demonstrated to:
- Increase operational efficiencies
- Enable more thorough therapeutic checks
- Improve relationships with patients and physicians
- Build more meaningful patient contact
- Reduce prescription paperwork