UConn Health Specialty Pharmacy: 2 years of success and still growing

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The pharmacy changes lives every day and has secured over $17 million in financial assistance for our patients since opening.
—Kim Metcalf

The specialty pharmacy at UConn Health quietly marks a milestone – two years of simplifying the process of getting specialty drugs to patients, saving them time, hassle and money.

It was June 30, 2020, still early in the pandemic, when the specialty pharmacy opened and filled a single prescription on the first day. Two years later, a typical month for UConn Health Pharmacy Services Incorporated is 900 patients served and 1,100 prescriptions filled.

“We’ve had phenomenal growth,” says Emmett Sullivan, director of specialty pharmacy. “Last year, we doubled our staff and our volumes also doubled.”

Left to right: Pharmacy Technician Coordinator Lou Daddona, Pharmacist Pamela Miranda, Pharmacy Technician Andrew Heng, and Purchasing and Inventory Specialist Katrina Coady in the UConn Health Specialty Pharmacy (photo by Chris DeFrancesco)

By the end of its first year, the specialty pharmacy had achieved the highest level of accreditation in the industry.

“Our success is largely due to our personalized, patient-centric, dedicated service that is integrated into the clinic model,” said Kim Metcalf, Associate Vice President for Pharmacy and Ancillary Services. “The pharmacy is changing lives daily and has secured over $17 million in financial assistance for our patients since opening. Our pharmacy exceeds the national average in the time to receive specialty drugs at an average of 2.5 days, compared to other national specialty pharmacies that get access in 7-10 days.

Specialty drugs often have one or more of the following characteristics:

  • They are not widely used, so they are handled by limited distribution channels.
  • They are more likely to have interactions with other medications.
  • They can have side effects that the patient must recognize and communicate to the healthcare team.
  • They are usually very expensive, in some cases up to $500,000 per year. They include oral, injectable and biologic drugs, the treatment of cancer, hepatitis, autoimmune diseases and other rare or chronic diseases.

Integrating a specialty pharmacy with patient care at UConn Health provides patients with conditions requiring specific—usually expensive—pharmaceuticals with more coordinated and often less expensive care.

“Specialty pharmacy takes a complex process and decreases stress for patients so they can focus on their health,” says Sullivan. “If you get a specialty prescription written by your supplier and go to the local pharmacy, it probably wouldn’t be available, and if it was, the cost of the drug could be hundreds or even thousands of dollars. dollars for the copayment.”

Any co-payments that cost more than $10, our team is looking for other ways to further reduce this cost to the patient.
— Emmett Sullivan

Thanks to its double accreditation with the URAC (originally the Utilization Review Accreditation Commission) and the ACHC (Accreditation Commission for Health Care), the specialized pharmacy has better access to these drugs. Clinical staff work directly with providers to add an extra level of review.

Pharmacy Liaisons help patients minimize out-of-pocket expenses and navigate their additional options beyond what insurance will cover. The pharmacy team engages patients and increases medication adherence rates to nearly 90%, well above the national standard of 80%.

“Financial barriers are a common cause of declining membership,” Sullivan says. “Any co-pay that is over $10, our team is looking at other ways to further reduce that cost to the patient. The manufacturer may have a co-pay assistance card, or there may be subsidies for certain conditions that the links will look for and monitor.

Prior to the opening of the specialty pharmacy, a patient requiring a specialty medication faced several potential hurdles and delays of two weeks or more. The retail pharmacy may not have the drug. Insurance will often deny these claims, requiring additional information from the healthcare team. It could be returned to the insurance plan’s mail-order specialty pharmacy and filled out in another state, and the patient would have to wait for it to arrive in the mail, in refrigerated conditions, if available.

“We’re here in Farmington and we deliver it right to your doorstep anywhere in the state,” says Sullivan. “He is being monitored for temperature sensitivity, and you are going to receive your medication, refrigerated, at your home or office. Our average time from receipt of an order to release is a third of the national average. »

Patients also get help with pre-authorization from their health insurer, renew reminder calls, keep their providers informed, and understand the medication’s purpose, dosage, potential side effects, and potential drug interactions.

Although UConn Health’s specialty pharmacy has come a long way in its two years, the plan is to continue on this growth trajectory and expand into clinical areas with which it has not yet fully established itself. engaged.

“Our personalized care approach has led to better patient care and outcomes,” says Metcalf. “Our pharmacy continues to exceed expectations and our growth plans for next year look very promising.”

Learn more about UConn Health Pharmacy Services Incorporated.

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