In April 2022, Julie Totsch had a stroke in the middle of the night. She was far from her home in Racine, on a trip in Toledo, Ohio, with her wife, Cheryl, when she was hospitalized. The trip was to adopt their beagle, Gracie. Julie was at a point in her life where she wanted to make changes to live healthier. The stroke made it all more difficult, but she was able to reach her goals thanks to her pharmacist.
“I needed someone in my corner who understood what I was going through and could keep me on track,” Julie said. “That’s what Connor did for me.”
Pharmacists Collaborate With Doctors and Nurses
Connor Hummel, PharmD, BCPS, is a clinical pharmacist for primary care patients with the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network. Froedtert & MCW primary care pharmacists support patients with chronic diseases, such as hypertension or diabetes, and work side by side with their doctors, nurses and other care team members to help them reach their health goals. When a doctor refers a patient to a primary care pharmacist, the doctor and the pharmacist collaborate under the guidelines of a collaborative practice agreement, or CPA. The CPA allows the pharmacist to provide expanded services like making medication adjustments.
After her stroke, Julie got a call from her primary care doctor letting her know that Connor would be her pharmacist. She would have weekly or monthly calls with Connor for several months.
“My goals were to lower my blood pressure, keep my blood sugars down to manage my diabetes and lose weight,” Julie said. “I also have to take pain medication, muscle relaxants and anti-anxiety medication. After the stroke, my medication regimen became even more complicated. It was a little overwhelming, but with Connor’s help, I started feeling like I could do this.”
Pharmacists Are a Resource for Medication Management
Medication management is an important part of the pharmacist’s job – from reviewing all prescriptions and over-the-counter medications to coordinating refills, recommending ways to alleviate side effects, and assisting with prescription insurance and other medication-related financial concerns.
“When a patient is dealing with one or more chronic conditions, it can be life-changing,” Connor said. “We help educate on the disease state as a whole and specifically address questions or concerns about medications. We want to make sure our patients are comfortable with what they are taking, with their medication schedule, and with knowing that their refills are in order, all so they can stay compliant with their regimen and feel better.”
When Julie was experiencing side effects from her blood pressure medications, she told Connor how she was feeling. He identified a duplicate therapy. She was taking two medications in the same class, so he immediately made prescription adjustments. Then, he worked with Julie on adjusting the dosages. They discussed her blood pressure readings during every call, and eventually, they were able to get it within normal levels.
“Our primary care pharmacists offer a unique service to our patients,” said Amanda Mauerman, PharmD, BCACP, ambulatory pharmacy manager for the Froedtert & MCW health network. “They are a medication resource, but more importantly, they are embedded in our clinics. They have access to the electronic medical records, so they have all the background information they need to understand a patient’s history. They are also in close communication with the doctors, so they can provide the most comprehensive care possible. With regular touchpoints by phone, video visit or in-clinic, our pharmacists are an additional layer of support for our patients.”
An important difference between Froedtert Pharmacy services and a big-box pharmacy is the Froedtert & MCW pharmacist’s ability to access electronic medical records. Access to records gives the pharmacist insight into a patient’s history and any labs that have been done, which means they can make a real-time assessment on appropriate medication dosage. They also have visibility into any potential drug interactions with medications that are already prescribed.
“Our pharmacist’s access to records creates an additional layer of safety for our patients,” Mauerman said.
Connor was also able to help Julie control her diabetes. He reminded her to use her glucose monitor to record her blood sugar levels and save them in Glooko®. Glooko is an app that allows people living with diabetes to share their blood glucose information with their care team to help them manage their disease. The app also allows for communication between the patient and care team.
“When Julie was running low on her medication, I coordinated with our team to make sure her prescriptions were delivered to her home,” Connor said. “One of her medications is difficult to access because of a national shortage, so I ensured she had the right supply and wouldn’t have to go without.”
Specialty Pharmacists Support Patients With Complex, Chronic Conditions
Research shows medication adherence is associated with improved clinical outcomes for chronic diseases. To support patients with complex, chronic conditions like a transplant or cancer, there is the Froedtert Specialty Pharmacy Services team. The specialty pharmacists are clinical pharmacists who focus on removing barriers that may prevent adherence to complex medication regimens.
Froedtert & MCW specialty pharmacists work similarly to primary care pharmacists. They facilitate or review lab work to monitor therapies, resolve side effects or medication interactions, offer refill reminders and proactively coordinate medical and pharmacy benefits, Every patient also receives free home delivery for hundreds of specialty and limited distribution medications.
“Froedtert Specialty Pharmacy consistently ranks very high in patient satisfaction,” said Kama Thomas, PharmD, BCACP, the Froedtert Specialty Pharmacy Health Outcomes and Research coordinator. The Froedtert Specialty Pharmacy team works collaboratively to ensure that insurance prior authorizations and financial assistance applications are completed seamlessly and efficiently. An internal study found that on average, it was nearly three days faster to fill oral chemotherapy drugs with Froedtert Specialty Pharmacy than other external pharmacies.”
A Strong Pharmacist-Patient Relationship
Since her stroke, Julie has made important lifestyle changes that lasted. She is better at following her medication regimen, and she has a new way of organizing all of her medications to make it easier to stay on track. She also made changes to her diet and goes for walks three times a day with her rescue beagle, Gracie. So far, Julie has lost more than 20 lbs. She says the weekly calls with Connor were crucial to reaching her goals because of the strong pharmacist-patient relationship they built together.
“He really knew me,” Julie said. “I think that is what helped him keep me accountable to making the health changes we talked about. I never wanted to let him down, and he was always ready to help.”
Visit Froedtert Pharmacy for more information about our services, including locations, prescription home delivery and medication management.