How MTM Programs Help Improve Pharmacist Patient Relationships

patient on phone with pharmacistIn today’s shifting and evolving healthcare landscape, pharmacists are assuming roles that make better use of their extensive medication education and skills than ever before. It means that patients will increasingly have access to pharmacists through clinical programs that bring them out from behind the counter and allow for more comprehensive interactions to optimize medication use. A positive side effect of this shift is one that is often overlooked: the pharmacist patient relationship. 

Why you need to prioritize pharmacist patient relationships 

pharmacist patient relationshipsIt’s not uncommon for patients interacting with the healthcare system to experience feelings of confusion, ambiguity, and frustration. They’re often seeking assistance with an ailment they can’t manage on their own, or an injury that needs proper care to heal. In a sea of cost-prohibitive and complicated medications and procedures, it’s no wonder that patients can feel apprehensive toward the entire system.  

This is precisely why we as healthcare professionals must prioritize building strong relationships with patients with a foundation of trust. In a treatment plan, when a strong pharmacist patient relationship is forged, it allows the patient to bring their guard down and establish a rapport with their pharmacist. With trust as the basis for the relationship, doors open for the patient to live a healthier life through improved medication use.  

Trust between pharmacists and patients also creates a perfect environment for pharmacists to help patients increase their health literacy. Ultimately, if patients understand the why behind their medications and treatment plans, they are more likely to maintain their medication adherence, stick to their treatment plans, and achieve their long-term health goals. This is critical when one learns that 88% of adults in the United States lack the health literacy sufficient to navigate our healthcare system and promote their own well-being. 

The link between medication therapy management (MTM) and patient relationships 

Medication therapy management, or MTM, is defined by the American College of Clinical Pharmacy as “a range of services provided to individual patients to optimize therapeutic outcomes and detect and prevent costly medication problems”.  

What does that mean for patients? 

It means that MTM is a process in which they can speak with a pharmacist for as long as they need to complete a comprehensive medication review where, together, they review all prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and herbal supplements the patient is taking. During this process, the pharmacist documents their findings and is able to identify potentially harmful interactions between medications or even gaps in care where medications that would be beneficial to condition management are not currently being taken. 

MTM is the most powerful way to create pharmacist patient relationships because when done correctly by pharmacists with the appropriate training, it takes the form of a conversation, rather than a parental or mandative one-sided interaction that patients may expect from other clinicians. As referenced above, the outcome of these productive conversations is trust and rapport which ease patients’ worries and bring their guard down, enabling a true dialog to take place. 

Let’s take an example of a potential MTM interaction to illustrate how a pharmacist patient relationship can be built during a comprehensive medication review. During a CMR, the pharmacist discovers that despite being prescribed a medication to manage their diabetes, the patient hasn’t been adherent to the medication. Through gently probing to understand the reason for nonadherence, the pharmacist learns that the patient hasn’t been taking their medication due to a side effect that is bothering them. While understandable, this situation can be dangerous, as the patients’ blood glucose levels are not under control, leaving them vulnerable to harmful downstream health effects. Fortunately, through their extensive medication knowledge, the pharmacist connects with the prescribing physician, explains the unintended side effect, and recommends an alternative medication that provides the same benefits to the patient without the side effects. Ultimately, the patients’ health is improved not only through the proper management of their diabetes, but also through the reduction in harmful side effects they were previously experiencing. 

Key impacts of an improved pharmacist patient relationship 

Healthy patientHow does an improved pharmacist patient relationship positively impact patient health, and by extension, lower overall healthcare costs? 

Better communication 

MTM creates relationships that help to break down the barriers preventing positive health outcomes for patients. Because most MTM eligible patients are also Medicare beneficiaries, they are often elderly. MTM is a great way to empower these patients to remain active in their own health through improved communication. When patients have robust communication with their care team, they feel heard and are subsequently more apt to follow their treatment plans. 

Patient education 

Healthcare is complex and confusing, especially for elderly patients who don’t always have a family member or caregiver to help them along the way. Building relationships that allow for patient education is key to equipping these patients with the knowledge they need to properly maintain their own health and play an active role in the success of their treatment. 

During a comprehensive medication review between a pharmacist and patient with a strong relationship, there is opportunity for the patient to get their questions answered and concerns addressed so that they leave the interaction with a higher degree of patient education than before. Over time, this system creates patients who are knowledgeable about their health conditions and medications, and who feel equipped to take the appropriate actions to reach their health goals. 

Medication adherence 

Perhaps the most critical component of MTM that positively influences patient health is medication adherence. After all, we cannot expect a patient’s medication regimen to do its job if the patient does understand it or is untrusting of it, leading to them not taking their medication as prescribed. 

If we can help patients understand and appreciate just how important medication adherence truly is, they have every reason to follow their medication regimens as prescribed. 

Fostering collaborative pharmacist patient relationships with MTM programs 

collaborative pharmacist patient relationshipMedication therapy management programs are the best way to build relationships with patients for several reasons.  

Firstly, MTM consultations take place on a recurring basis. This is critical because we couldn’t expect a one-off interaction to form a relationship that leads to better health in the long term. After every MTM consultation delivered by Aspen RxHealth, patients are asked whether they would like to speak to the same pharmacist for their next consultation. If the answer is “yes”, it’s easy to see how over time, pharmacists will develop a panel of “their” patients with whom they speak repeatedly, creating long term relationships and trust 

Aspen RxHealth pharmacists are extensively trained in practices such as motivational interviewing that help them make the most of every single patient interaction. This approach allows Aspen RxHealth pharmacists to empathetically meet patients where they are, help dispel confusion, and take leadership in setting achievable goals that steer patients toward condition management and improvement. 

If your health plan members are in need of a robust medication therapy management program that can create strong care relationships, it’s time to consider Aspen RxHealth. Explore our MTM solution offerings here.