Old Town Clinic's Pharmacy Keeps On Keeping On

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

In 2010, Central City Concern’s Old Town Clinic (OTC) pharmacy filled about 200 prescriptions daily; in 2014, that number was closer to 500. Over the course of this year, the pharmacy has served more than 4,000 very low-income patients and filled more than 100,000 prescriptions. With these numbers in mind, it would be tempting to be content with the pharmacy’s growth.

But don’t tell that to head pharmacist Sandy Anderson, who works tirelessly not only to increase the capacity of the pharmacy, but also to ensure that her patients are receiving the best possible care.

Last year, Sandy led the effort to obtain state-of-the-art technology that would allow the pharmacy staff to find and deliver prescriptions efficiently and accurately, “freeing up pharmacists to consult on medications instead of rummaging to find them” and ultimately giving “patients the confidence in us to accept our advice on their drug treatment.”

But improving patient care didn’t end there for Sandy and her team. Just in the past few months, the OTC pharmacy has pursued two innovative partnerships to provide our patients with the best possible care.

Helping Patients Understand their MEDS

CareOregon recently released a paper-based tool – as effective as it is low-tech – called the MEDS™ Chart, which helps patients juggling multiple prescriptions and their providers improve medication safety, track the effects and effectiveness of the various medications, and promote better dialogue and outcomes. As the majority of patients Sandy and her team see at the pharmacy are taking more than one prescription, they had a strong interest in the MEDS™ Chart.

During CareOregon’s development process, OTC pharmacy staff provided feedback on the tool. And when it came time to test it out, the pharmacy eagerly volunteered as a pilot site to help assess how the chart worked in real-world situations.

Sandy loves that the tool empowers patients to track and communicate honestly how each medication made them feel. She relayed that with the help of the MEDS™ Chart, one of her patients was able to work with a case manager to calibrate the psychiatric medications she was taking. Sandy saw a big smile spread across his face as he said, “I never thought the voices would go away. I don’t hear the voices anymore and I’m so happy.”

Because there have been successes like this at Old Town Clinic, both Sandy and Barbara Martin, Old Town Clinic’s Director of Primary Care, were invited to share their thoughts in a video about the MEDS™ Chart, which you can watch below. 

Help by Way of Albany

Beyond helping patients best work and communicate with their providers to improve patient care, the pharmacy has also found a way to increase access to particularly expensive medications through an inaugural partnership.

Over the years, the pharmacy had noticed that many patients were going without medications that, when not covered by insurance, were prohibitively expensive. When possible, Central City Concern would purchase these prescriptions out of its own funds to make sure these patients were able to take crucial medications.

Concurrently, many health facilities (like nursing homes) and manufacturers were struggling with wasting prescription medications that, for one reason or another, cannot be completely used by the original patient. The University of Chicago estimated that nearly $2 billion worth of prescription medications are wasted each year.

Then along came a new organization, SIRUM, that saw an opportunity within the problem of wasted medications. SIRUM uses technology to connect manufacturers, wholesalers, health facilities, and pharmacies to safety net clinics, like the Old Town Clinic, creating an avenue by which medications can be redistributed and donated, rather than destroyed.

Sandy and the Old Town Clinic pharmacy jumped at this chance to increase access to difficult-to-afford medications for our patients. SIRUM ultimately connected the pharmacy with Mennonite Village Continuing Care Retirement Community, located in Albany, OR, which is now sending unused medications to Old Town Clinic.

Because this partnership is the first of its kind in the entire state, Sandy was interviewed on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud program to speak about how SIRUM and Mennonite Village have helped our patients access medications they otherwise may not have received. You can listen to the interview below.