Atrium Health’s Specialty Pharmacy Service gives patients more information, faster service and better outcomes.

News | 3 years ago

Sickle Cell Disease, Part 4: An Integrated Pharmacy Model

Atrium Health’s Specialty Pharmacy Service gives patients more information, faster service and better outcomes.

This is the final piece in a four-part series on Atrium Health’s innovative, holistic approach to sickle cell disease care.

New treatment options. Potential side effects. Questions about affordability. After a patient with sickle cell disease leaves the doctor’s office and heads to the pharmacy, new questions about prescriptions often arise.

“There can be so much confusion for our patients as to where to turn or whom to trust,” says John Robicsek, Atrium Health’s assistant vice president of program development for pharmacy services.

Atrium Health has designed a comprehensive support service for specialty medication management, offering big benefits for sickle cell patients dealing with chronic pain and, often, expensive prescriptions and fragmented pharmacy experiences.

The program, known as Specialty Pharmacy Service, has introduced patients to a new integrated model that brings doctors, nurses and pharmacists together. Information is easily and quickly shared, savings opportunities found, and prescriptions fulfilled efficiently. For sickle cell disease patients who face chronic pain, the saved time is invaluable.

“It’s a holistic experience,” Robicsek says. “We want to erase all barriers to care, so that our patients can focus on what they should – their health, their medications and their treatment options.”

The Specialty Pharmacy Service serves a growing number of the region’s sickle cell disease patients. The program has already created positive outcomes: Patients begin their medications more quickly, find it easier to stay on them and are more compliant with instructions.

The Right Medication at an Affordable Cost

When Endari earned FDA approval last year, it was the first drug approved for sickle cell disease in about 20 years. It offers patients a new option that, for many, reduces symptoms to never-before-seen levels. Yet, like many new specialty medications, it comes with a high price tag. For patients who face chronic pain that often interferes with daily schedules, the out-of-pocket cost of sickle cell disease medicine can become a major burden, if not an outright barrier to care.

The goal of the Specialty Pharmacy Service is not only to inform patients about the newest drugs and their benefits, but to work on behalf of patients to make drugs like Endari more affordable. Team members research copay assistance and payment options that are available, based on each patient’s eligibility. They explore all options to reach the lowest possible out-of-pocket cost to the patient. This process allows doctors, nurses and patients to focus more on managing the disease while pharmacy experts coordinate medication processing and affordability.

“What's most important about having an internalized Specialty Pharmacy Service is the ability to have our pharmacists and providers work together to identify patients who could benefit from new treatment options,” says Robicsek. “The pharmacy team works to make medications affordable and tolerable, helping patients achieve the outcomes they expect and deserve.”
With the Specialty Pharmacy Service, Atrium Health helps secure copay assistance that often exceeds the industry average.

Getting Medications to Patients When They Need It

Sickle cell patients are at risk for pain crises, meaning it’s critical for them to maintain the treatment plan laid out by their providers. Atrium Health’s Specialty Pharmacy Service works diligently to deliver medications when needed by patients in ways that most outside pharmacies can’t replicate. Patients who use outside pharmacies often experience a greater delay in starting treatment.

“Having an internal pharmacy that works within our health system, we are able to deliver a more streamlined and transparent and accountable experience for our patients,” says Robicsek.

The Specialty Pharmacy Service allows the pharmacist to work within a patient’s health record, greatly reducing the back-and-forth calls between pharmacists, doctors and patients that can delay starting therapy. Pharmacists are also available around the clock, every day of the week, to answer patients’ questions.

The goal is to provide holistic care for those who deal with sickle cell disease. Whether they’re children or adults, needing a transplant or wanting to learn about new drugs, Atrium Health strives to create an environment where patients feel informed, supported and healthy.

Teammate Spotlight: LaToya Washington

As a technician with Atrium Health’s Specialty Pharmacy Service, LaToya Washington serves as a liaison between the physician, patient and pharmacy. Washington and her team work to remove barriers that stand between a patient and their prescription.

For example, if a prescription requires prior authorization from the patient’s insurance, or if the patient needs financial assistance, she works with the team to resolve those issues. When the order is ready to be filled, her department coordinates fulfillment – as well as patient pick up and free delivery to the patient’s home, removing transportation barriers.

It’s work that’s needed for sickle cell disease patients who often face medical crises, Washington says. While new sickle cell disease drugs are on the market and work well for patients, they can be too expensive for many. Washington works with patients to reduce their out-of-pocket expenses as much as possible.

“If a patient didn't have Atrium Health’s Specialty Pharmacy Service, we believe their ability to start and continue their prescribed therapy would be greatly reduced,” says Washington. “With us, we delve in a little bit more. We seek other avenues, reaching out to the doctors' offices, examining all options. We want patients to focus on getting better and not having that financial burden as well.”

And the work that Washington and her team do has already proven to make a difference in patients’ lives. With the unique integrated pharmacy model, patients are more likely to be consistent with their medication – and have better health outcomes.

Continue reading this series on sickle cell disease:

Part 1: Game-Changing Advancements in Care

Part 2: Improving Long-Term Care

Part 3: Innovative - and Proven - Therapies

Part 4: An Integrated Pharmacy Model

Read More About Atrium Health's Sickle Cell Program and Download the eBook Today.


Learn more about sickle cell disease care at Atrium Health. Call us at 980-442-4363 begin a conversation about our program and how we can support your health