Specialty Pharmacy Improves Patient Outcomes at Northwestern Medicine

Specialty Pharmacy Improves Patient Outcomes at Northwestern Medicine

This is part of ScriptPro’s In the Field series, which highlights ScriptPro customers engaging in unique pharmacy programs that positively impact their local communities.

Northwestern Medicine is the shared strategic vision of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine to transform the future of healthcare and become one of the nation’s premier destinations for patient care.

URAC and ACHC-accredited Northwestern Medicine Specialty Pharmacy opened its doors in early 2014 and has been thriving since day one. With a centralized location in the heart of downtown Chicago, NM Specialty Pharmacy services an ever-growing roster of clinics for Northwestern Medicine patients throughout Illinois and surrounding areas.

“When we started this initiative, it was to fill a real need for our clinics. The specialty pharmacy process is a complex one and our providers, nurses, and patients needed support in navigating it,” says Travis Hunerdosse, PharmD, MBA, Northwestern Medicine Specialty Pharmacy Director.

“There’s so much that goes into specialty prescriptions, covering benefits investigation, prior authorization – all the upfront work our technicians now handle that physicians and nurses were doing previously. Layered in with that is also ongoing therapy management and initial education our pharmacists perform.

“We’ve been able to unburden our health system staff while simultaneously empowering our pharmacy staff to engage, educate, and provide continuity of care for our specialty patients.”

Northwestern Medicine Specialty Pharmacy Director Travis Hunerdoss

Strategic tech solutions leverage relationships, improve EHR integration

For the pharmacy, the goal was to close the loop on specialty medication management for patients. It utilizes a number of software platforms including ScriptPro’s SP Central Pharmacy Management System and ScriptPro Inventory Management (SIM). According to John Keller, PharmD, CSP, NM Specialty Operations Team Lead, “Patients were struggling to get their specialty prescriptions filled, often because their local pharmacy couldn’t fill it or there was a prior authorization needing to be dealt with. In the meantime, the patient was going without medication until their next follow-up visit.

“With our integrated systems, we have access to a patient’s medical records, and we have the ability, expertise, and dedicated pharmacy staff to fill those vital prescriptions. Now there is a face-to-face connection within the health system, as well as prescription and therapy protocol access across our network.”

Steady, planned growth enables comprehensive specialty case management

What began with a small satellite pharmacy just four years ago has grown exponentially. Within the last year alone, NM Specialty Pharmacy has grown by 47%. According to Hunerdosse, “We wanted to make sure we could start small and grow into it – it was definitely a tight fit in the early days. We started with 6 FTE – three pharmacists and three techs. Now we’re a team of 45. We staff 23 techs, 15 RPh, back office staff, and the management team.”

The pharmacy moved to a new space in 2016. The larger space accommodates more inventory, year-over-year increasing prescription volume, as well as courier and home delivery.

Perhaps one of the greatest values in the move has been creating a cohesive, well-run, and upbeat work environment for pharmacy staff, which has transformed everything from prescription filling, paperwork, and adherence rates. From intake staff to call center agents, and patient care advocates to pharmacists, they’re streamlining the whole specialty process for their patients and providers alike, without breaking a sweat.

“We tell our physicians and nurses, ‘Just send us the prescription and we will take care of the rest.’ They no longer have to deal with hours of paperwork, but can instead use their time for more direct patient care,” notes Hunerdosse. “Likewise, we’ve been able to dramatically decrease fill times, getting prescriptions to our patients in half the time or less than would be typical of an outside pharmacy.”

Northwestern Medicine Specialty Pharmacy Operations Team Lead John Keller

In-house specialty pharmacy proves direct impact to successful patient therapy

With an industry estimate of 30-50% non-compliance on long-term medications, NM Specialty Pharmacy’s adherence rate, or medication possession ratio (MPR), for all its disease states hits around 85%. Its Hepatitis C rate is even greater – with a 98% cure rate.

Keller says, “Hep C is a complex disease state. We’re able to really guide our patients on the most successful therapy and counseling about the importance of taking their medication every day. Because we’ve been able to remove those roadblocks to care, we have many more success stories of patients living Hep C free lives. It’s clear the impact we’re making in patients’ lives, not just for Hep C, but for all the disease states we help them manage and successfully navigate.”

About Northwestern Medicine: Northwestern Medicine is the shared strategic vision of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare (NMHC) and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine to transform the future of healthcare and become a premier integrated academic health system. Each day, 33,700 clinical and administrative staff, medical and science faculty, and medical students come together with a shared commitment to superior quality, academic excellence, scientific discovery and patient safety.