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Importance of Collaborating With Specialty Pharmacy to Improve Patient Care

Rina Shah, divisional vice president of Pharmacy Operations and Specialty at Walgreens, and LeeAnn Mengel, vice president of Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center (Baptist), discussed their recent partnership during a session at the Asembia 2019 Specialty Pharmacy Summit and explained how they have personalized services for patients and improved patient outcomes. 

“We’re seeing a ton of consolidation around health systems, and many of them have started to look at opening up their own specialty pharmacy,” Ms Shah said. 

Ms Shah explained this consolidation: 

  • Top 3 pharmacy benefit managers have consolidated and manage over 80% of specialty prescriptions; 
  • Top 4 PBMs manage more than 65% of the specialty pharmacy market; and, 
  • Hospital consolidations have not slowed down and the number of hospitals in a system continually increases. 

Ms Shah and Ms Mengel spent the session discussing their new partnership and explained the benefits of their work together and what other health systems can learn from them. 

Ms Shah explained that the Walgreens specialty pharmacy overview includes one major goal. The goal “is to provide high touch care at the community level and develop relationships with patients and provider, that enhance the specialty experience and reduce specialty trend.” 

Ms Mengel then explained that the goal of Baptist is “to replicate the multidisciplinary model of MD Anderson to eradicate cancer through treatment, reach, prevention, and education.” She said that some of their support services include social workers, nutritionists, psychologists, and more. She noted that specialty pharmacy can now be added to that list after the partnership with Walgreens. 

Through the Walgreens and Baptist partnership, patients have access to pharmacists that have been integrated into their care team. Notably, Walgreens provides Baptist patients with Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Blood Cancer certified pharmacists. 

Ms Mengel explained that this partnership is important for patients because pharmacists now provide chairside delivery of outpatient medications. She noted that in other locations, the turnaround time for prescriptions is often very long. The pharmacist also assists with prior authorization assistance. Similarly, she explained that the Walgreens partnership allows increased access through contracts with national payers. 

Ms Shah noted that this partnership allows for a better understanding of formulary and payer dynamics among the health care provider team. 

She said, “The value added of us continuing to innovate the space will allow us to be that much more effective, and when we look at rising costs, it’s important for us to be as efficient and as effective as possible.” 

Both Ms Shah and Ms Mengel stressed that this partnership puts the patient first—the most important goal of any health care system. They both explained that this unique collaboration allows for a more personalized service to each individual patient and allows the health care team to better focus on treatment journeys. 

“We can’t stay stagnant,” Ms Shah said, “it’s important for us to continually think of how we can take care of patients differently and by having the same model where we just ship to home, or we just have standard care delivered, it’s no longer going to be relevant to the end consumer.” —Julie Gould 

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