Sometimes the best solutions involve re-imaging the ones that are already in place. Take clinical pharmacy specialists at VHA medical centers, who have provided expanded care to Veterans for decades, but without clear direction. The Increasing Access to Pharmacy Care Through Clinical Pharmacy Specialists program aims to change this by better unifying and directing the use of clinical pharmacists so Veterans get better access to their care.
“We have unique roles for pharmacists at VA that are different from the traditional roles that people think of in the community,” says Dr. Ellina Seckel, the program’s creator and associate chief of ambulatory and specialty care – Pharmacy Service at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital. “Our pharmacist providers can start, stop, and change medication, place consults and referrals – essentially do the same thing that a physician does once a diagnosis has been made.”
By integrating clinical pharmacy specialists into a Veteran’s primary care team, Seckel’s program allows for Veterans to have what amounts to an extra physician who can make sure the Veteran is supported throughout their care. These specialists can also triage and manage patients with chronic diseases in a primary care setting, opening appointment slots for Primary Care Providers to address other more urgent Veteran needs.
Seckel presented the program during the inaugural VHA I:E Talks at the VHA Innovation Experience, a recent event held by the VHA Innovation Ecosystem. During these talks, 13 employees including Seckel shared personalized accounts of how their work is cultivating change across VHA. The results of Seckel’s program have been stunning: physicians are getting more time to see more patients, medications and subscriptions are more closely monitored, and Veterans are able to more easily contact their care teams.
“The patients are seeing better care outcomes: A1C are improving, blood pressures are getting to goal more quickly. They’re getting both greater access to care and quicker results,” Seckel told the audience during her talk.
Through this program the lives and care of many Veterans have been touched. Veterans have told Seckel that they have a better understanding of their own care and feel more connected to VA thanks to having a clinical pharmacy specialist on their care team. And one Veteran told Seckel’s colleague that if it were not for the program he would probably be dead.
To hear that incredible story and much more about this breakthrough program, check out a special episode of the VHA:IE podcast that feature clips from Seckel’s VHA I:E Talk, as well as a conversation that took place afterwards between and Brian Stevenson, a diffusion specialist with the Diffusion of Excellence Initiative.
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VHA’s VHA:IE podcast is dedicated to discussing and promoting the groundbreaking work being done across VHA to advance our care and support of Veterans. Each episode, we discuss a specific challenge that VHA is facing, and how frontline employees and Veterans themselves are taking innovative steps to tackle these challenges. We’ll also be discussing these efforts on a broader scale with private sector organizations and individuals who are working in the same sphere. We’re hoping to give everyone better insight into the many ways that VHA is adapting and growing to better serve an ever-changing Veteran population.