USC Program Improves Care by Expanding Pharmacists’ Roles
A program developed by the University of Southern California's School of Pharmacy enabled pharmacists to better care for patients and could lead to lower health care costs, KQED's "State of Health" reports.
The article was produced by the California HealthCare Foundation's Center for Health Reporting. The center is supported by a grant from CHCF, which publishes California Healthline.
Details of Program
The $12 million program is funded by CMS and launched in October 2012.
Through the program, three-person teams consisting of a clinical pharmacist, pharmacy resident and pharmacy technician are sent to safety-net health care clinics in Los Angeles and Orange counties. The pharmacists serve as primary care providers for individuals with:
- Blood pressure abnormalities;
- Hypertension; and
- Other chronic illnesses.
They also are granted greater autonomy to fill prescriptions. In addition, the teams make house calls and increase the number of clinical visits.
The program began at five AltaMed Health Services clinics in low-income neighborhoods, including:
- Boyle Heights;
- El Monte;
- Huntington Beach;
- Pico Riviera; and
- West Covina.
It has now expanded to a total of 11 AltaMed clinics.
The program is scheduled to continue over the next 17 months.
So far, a study of the program found that when working with a pharmacist team:
- 90% of patients with high blood pressure saw their blood pressure decrease to below hypertension levels in 45 days; and
- Diabetes patients with high blood sugar levels were more than two times more likely to have their levels controlled within six months.
In addition, pharmacists corrected 19,696 prescription errors -- 2,000 of which were potentially dangerous -- during 11 months of the program.
The project has reported a 25% decrease in hospitalizations for nearly 6,000 participating patients.
According to "State of Health," the results indicate that pharmacists could effectively play a larger role in patient care and health care cost reduction (Udesky, "State of Health," KQED, 4/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.