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Program helps Oaklawn patients with medication safety

Aug. 13, 2018

 Program aims to help many Oaklawn patients to keep medicines in order at home

 MARSHALL – A new program aims to help recently discharged Oaklawn patients through an often-confusing maze of medications and instructions while they recover at home.

Many newly discharged Oaklawn patients age 60 and older can receive specialized coaching and support so the patients avoid medicine-related errors that could return them to the hospital or complicate their medical conditions.

Funded by a Michigan Health Endowment Fund grant, the Care-Connection Health Intervention Program brings together Battle Creek-based CareWell Services Area Agency on Aging and Marshall-based Oaklawn and Hemmingsen Drug Store to help patients in need of assistance with their transition to life at home.

“We want to keep our patients healthier longer, but most of the problems patients have at home is managing their medications,” said John Mohler, who is Oaklawn’s director of pharmacy.

“We want to make it easier for qualifying seniors with high-risk chronic conditions to better understand how to properly take their medications, especially when prescriptions change or new ones are needed,” Mohler said.

Under the program, a private, real-time conversation is held via social-media technology on a computer tablet, facilitated by a community health worker or resource advocate from CareWell Services. The resource advocate helps connect the patient to a local pharmacist via laptop computer, and all the patient’s medications and instructions then are thoroughly discussed.

This “comprehensive medication review” occurs directly between the patient at home and a Hemmingsen-based pharmacist at the drug store, even if the medications involved originate with a different pharmacy. The resource advocate then can assist the patient to follow through on the recommendations provided by the pharmacist.

“Certified community health workers are lay personnel that provide face-to-face coaching, support and health education for seniors, caregivers and family members,” said Karla Fales, CEO of CareWell Services Southwest, the area agency on aging serving Barry and Calhoun counties.

“The result is reduced hospitalizations and readmissions, increased engagement between community organizations and consumers and improved disease management support. Everyone needs a little support and advice now and again. Our resource advocates provide that linkage and coaching support for the at risk seniors,” Fales said.

Pharmacists Chris Munden and Melynda Munden, who own the drug store, have been working with Hemmingsen pharmacists Matt Schwartz and Brynn Jenkins so each is well-versed in the technology involved and are fully trained to access the information that’s vital to the patients.

“It’s wonderful to be able to take multiple health-care resources that exist in our community and connect them in a way that hasn’t been done before,” Melynda Munden said.

“I’m the ‘warm fuzzy,’” said Jackie Hall, one of CareWell’s community health workers. “I build a rapport with the client so they’re more comfortable dealing with the pharmacist. It’s a lot better than just working over the phone.”

By helping each patient understand how to take his or her medicine, it’s possible to help prevent unnecessary and costly readmissions to the hospital and give seniors more confidence in managing their post-hospitalization goals, Fales said.

“The program has seen remarkable successes, including only two readmissions for 100 patients served,” Fales said.

“This type of program is transformational health care, because it will help to keep our patients at home while lowering costs for everyone involved,” said Jane Jones, who is Oaklawn’s executive director of organizational excellence. She added that the program currently affects fewer than 100 Oaklawn patients but may grow in time.

An Oaklawn patient seeking referral or specific information about the program should consult his or her hospital-based care manager.

“Working with Oaklawn and Hemmingsen is amazing,” Fales said. “We all share a vision for a strongly collaborative and person-centered focus on helping seniors with chronic conditions stabilize and maintain the management of their chronic conditions.

“We are more successful together in helping seniors stay out of the hospital and moving toward effective self management,” Fales said. “This saves money, ensures better outcomes and improves quality of care. We couldn’t ask for better partners who care about our community and its seniors.”