The Importance of a Clinical Pharmacist in MTM Programs
Medication therapy management, or MTM as most know it, is a type of care typically performed by clinical pharmacists. MTM improves patients’ health by ensuring proper medication management. So, what is the role of a clinical pharmacist when it comes to MTM and what challenges do they face?
Let’s dive into those questions, and more.
The goal of medication therapy management
MTM describes a broad range of services, but there are five main elements:
- Medication therapy review (MTR)
- Personal medication record (PMR)
- Medication-related action plan (MAP)
- Intervention and/or referral
- Documentation and follow-up
Healthcare doesn’t need another acronym, so what’s important to take away from the list above is that MTM makes sure that patients have the right medications for their health conditions and that they’re getting the maximum benefits of prescribed medications. MTM also detects and prevents costly problems such as adverse drug events (ADEs), which cost our healthcare system billions each year in preventable care.
While anyone taking medication could benefit from an MTM program, the biggest benefit lies with patients taking multiple medications for chronic conditions. These patients are often of a certain age and Medicare-eligible. It’s easy to see how elderly patients could benefit from the empathetic, consultative advice of a clinical pharmacist to properly manage their health.
The role of a clinical pharmacist in medication therapy management
You might wonder, “Why can’t physicians counsel patients on the medications they are prescribing?” Consider a patient who has been prescribed multiple medications across multiple care delivery sites. Perhaps some medications were prescribed in the primary care physician’s office, some in the emergency room, and some in an urgent care setting. Because all these medications have been prescribed by different physicians for different reasons, it’s challenging for one physician to counsel the patient on all of them. Yet, that does not mean the patient doesn’t deserve the care and attention.
Enter— the clinical pharmacist.
Patients with multiple chronic conditions often have several specialists to help them manage their health – perhaps a cardiologist for high blood pressure, a gastroenterologist for irritable bowel syndrome, and a rheumatologist for an autoimmune disorder. Shouldn’t patients have a medication specialist focused solely on ensuring maximum safety and benefit of their medications?
Clinical pharmacists are healthcare’s foremost medication experts. They’ve completed numerous years of education, training, and residency to fortify their expertise and understanding of how medications affect the body and one another. It’s a logical next step that a clinical pharmacist is the missing link to providing the highest possible quality of MTM services, especially to complex patients with chronic conditions.
Existing challenges in MTM
While some pharmacists work in academic settings or in hospitals, most still work in community pharmacies. Unfortunately in the traditional setting, clinical pharmacists must often fulfill a long list of roles: inventory keeper, accountant, manager, and retail support, to name a few. It’s no wonder that pharmacists are feeling stretched thinner than ever before. And, unfortunately, burnout has already set in for most.
Imagine pursuing a career in pharmacy with the goal of helping patients manage their health and understand their medications, only to find yourself relegated to solving staffing issues and taking inventory. While it’s important work, it’s not the work clinical pharmacists seek to provide for patients. Nor is it the reason most entered the healthcare field.
On top of their numerous other responsibilities, clinical pharmacists are also expected to complete MTM consultations in the retail setting. If you’ve been in a pharmacy recently, you’ve seen the long lines, impatient customers, and phones ringing off the hook. How can a pharmacist have an in-depth, one-on-one medication conversation with a patient under these conditions let alone build a solid pharmacist-patient relationship? It’s simply untenable.
MTM programs also face challenges with technology interoperability. Pharmacists aren’t integrated into the healthcare information technology (HIT) infrastructure to the same extent as other clinicians. Additionally, community pharmacies often lack connectivity to the electronic health record (EHR) systems used broadly by healthcare providers. This leaves them with a lack of necessary patient information, including claims data, to deliver a high-quality consultation and, ultimately, improve patient outcomes.
Technology empowering the clinical pharmacist
Despite the challenges that exist for MTM, innovative technological solutions are changing how clinical pharmacists deliver these vital services.
Today, platforms like Aspen RxHealth, give pharmacists newfound career freedom and allow them to reach further than ever before. After joining, our platform matches clinical pharmacists with consultation opportunities based on clinical factors including disease state and specialty, and social factors such as language and geographic location. When consulting patients, pharmacists deliver not only MTM but other important clinical pharmacy services like medication adherence and member education.
In fact, at Aspen RxHealth, we call it comprehensive medication management (CMM) because our pharmacists have the time and ability to take a comprehensive approach to patient care without feeling rushed or stressed. They are empowered to treat the whole patient and look beyond “checking the box.”
The best part? Remote pharmacists do this work entirely from the comfort of home on their own time. No more inventory management, staffing shortages, or long pharmacy lines. Pharmacists no longer need to feel rushed to dispense medications and deliver clinical consultations simultaneously. And the results are outstanding. Thanks to innovations and migrations towards value-based care, pharmacist-led care is finally here.