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How a phone call from HealthPartners changed the life of a man with type 2 diabetes

Our Medication Therapy Management program has received the nation’s top pharmacy award. Stories like our member Dan’s are why.

By Dan Rehrauer, PharmD
August 23, 2017

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Sometimes it’s the little things in life that make a big difference. Like having enough energy to chop wood for the winter. Or occasionally treating yourself to a hamburger. Those are things that a HealthPartners member sharing my same name – Dan – couldn’t do until recently.

This member Dan is 55 years old and lives with type 2 diabetes. And for a long time, life with it wasn’t easy for him. Sometimes his blood sugar would spike without warning. The disease damaged his eyes and sometimes caused his vision to be blurry. He wanted to lose weight but he felt tired all the time. And he constantly worried about having a heart attack.

Dan, a HealthPartners member and Medication Therapy Management participant

Then, Dan got a phone call from one of my colleagues that changed his life.

This HealthPartners pharmacist, Maddie Atol, asked Dan if he would like to schedule an appointment for a medication check-up. He was a little skeptical at first but he agreed to talk by phone with her. And over the next several months, they had several phone visits.

Dan was taking three medications. It was inconvenient and he sometimes skipped a dose. He worried he would need to inject insulin at every meal to fix the problem.

Working with his doctor, Maddie prescribed a new medication that Dan would need to take only once in the morning. She was also able to give him coupons that saved him more than $50 a month.

Now, for the first time in many years, Dan’s blood sugar is staying in normal range all day long. He’s saving money and time from not needing to go to another doctor’s appointment.

These check-ups that Dan has with Maddie are what’s known as Medication Therapy Management (MTM). And HealthPartners has been recognized nationally for the way that we do MTM. We recently received the Pinnacle Award – one of the highest pharmacy honors there is.

More about MTM

MTM is medical care from a pharmacist. The practice started more than 10 years ago. Health plans are required to offer MTM to patients enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid. HealthPartners was the first health plan in Minnesota, though, to offer MTM to members with commercial health plans, too.

MTM’s goal is to make sure that patients are getting the most from their medications. That can be challenging when someone has several chronic illnesses and takes multiple medications. Drugs can interact in unexpected ways. They can have unpleasant side effects, such as causing an upset stomach or making someone feel tired. Or, they can be too expensive. With MTM, pharmacists can change or adjust medications.

A patient can go to a pharmacy or clinic and talk to a pharmacist. There they can spend up to an hour talking about their concerns. Or, if it’s more convenient, patients can have a meeting over the phone, like how Dan chose to talk to Maddie. HealthPartners is also on the cutting-edge because we offer home visits with patients who are too sick to leave their homes.

Why would someone need MTM if they’ve talked to their doctor about medication?

Here’s the short answer: Not every patient is the same and drugs don’t always work as expected. For many years, providers focused on making sure that patients filled a prescription. That’s an important first step. But it’s not always enough.

Take blood pressure medication, for example. We looked at HealthPartners members who were taking medication as their doctor ordered. But about 30 percent of these members still had high blood pressure. The medications were not working for these individuals the way they were supposed to.

How and why can someone save money if they participate in MTM?

First, a pharmacist can see if there are alternative drugs that cost less. Also, when medications are working right, they prevent complications that require more care. HealthPartners found that the average patient who participated in MTM had about $1,600 less in health care costs than patients who did not use MTM.

About Dan Rehrauer, PharmD

Dan Rehrauer is senior manager of the HealthPartners Medication Therapy Management program. Before joining HealthPartners, he worked at West Side Community Health Services, a community health center in St. Paul. While there, he worked to find affordable care for people who did not have insurance or who could not pay for their care. For nearly 20 years, Dan has dedicated his career to raising awareness about the services that pharmacists can provide and to helping patients get access to those services. In his free time, Dan enjoys playing hockey and traveling with his wife and two daughters.

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