Cherry Street Health Services joins program to promote patient safety

December 20, 2010
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Patients at Cherry Street Health Services’ West Side Clinic are getting help with managing their chronic diseases and medications through a federal program that expands pharmacy services at clinics.

At Cherry Street, the Patient Safety and Clinical Pharmacy Services Collaborative brings pharmacists and Ferris State University pharmacy students to the table as part of the patient-centered medical home team. It’s the only site for the PSCP program in Michigan.

“We started in October and we’ve already started to see some sign of the benefit of the pharmacist and dietician and physician and the rest of the team working together,” said Cherry Street Pharmacy Manager Fred Schmidt.

Sponsored by Health Resources and Services Administration, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, PSCP was launched in 2008. The program’s goal is to enhance patient safety by preventing medication errors, boosting evidence-based clinical pharmacy services and improving health outcomes in “safety net” outpatient settings.

In its third year, PSCP now includes 127 teams and more than 320 organizations in 41 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Participants include 100 community health centers, 73 colleges and schools of pharmacy and 37 hospitals.

“It’s truly a collaborative effort, here at Cherry Street, to engage patients and get them involved, and for all these different disciplines to discuss the best way to treat these patients,” Schmidt said. “Our hopes are we will be able to find significant improvements with these people with hypertension.”

Patients who agree to participate in PSCP agree to take medications as prescribed and attend appointments, he added. The team at the West Side Clinic is starting out with 21 patients who have hypertension and see the same doctor, Schmidt said.

Best practices that develop from the experience of Cherry Street and the other PSCP participants will be translated to the Heart of the City Health Center building under construction at Cherry Street and Sheldon Avenue SE, Schmidt said. There, low-income patients will have access to a health care approach that integrates physical health and mental health services from Touchstone Innovare and Proaction Behavior Health Alliance.

The HHS hopes to spread these best practices through peer-to-peer educational sessions involving participating organizations.

“So far, our patients have been very receptive to this,” Schmidt said. “The doctor and pharmacist worked together to collaborate on medication regimens and change to what they feel will be the optimum regimen.”

Pharmacists even schedule their own appointments with patients to review medications, their purpose, side effects the patient may be experiencing, or barriers to obtaining prescriptions.

“We are also looking at what problems people are having with their medication,” Schmidt said. “We go through it with them, tell them how they might avoid that in the future, or talk about changing medication or strength to alleviate side effects. It truly is patient safety.”

FSU pharmacy students will be part of the patient teams, as well, said Michael Bouthillier, interim assistant dean of the College of Pharmacy.

“We think this a great experience for students,” he said. “This is the kind of practice that pharmacists will be doing — not only currently to a small extent, but in the future to a greater extent — as we move into managing chronic disease and keeping people healthy with medications.”

Bouthillier said studies show that, as time goes on, people with chronic disease tend to stop taking their medications, with as many as 50 percent abandoning prescriptions after a year.

“We know chronic disease can be very efficiently managed with medication, but less than 50 percent of people are actually taking their medication after one year.”

The pharmacy program has nearly 600 students, and Bouthillier said that it’s important for them to learn to interact in teams with other health care professionals.

Currently, three or four students a month may participate in the PSCP program at the Cherry Street clinic. But Schmidt said that he hopes to build on success by expanding to other doctors and patients and, eventually, at the Heart of the City building, which is expected to open next summer.

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