Magazine article Drug Topics

Miss the Boat?

Magazine article Drug Topics

Miss the Boat?

Article excerpt

In what may be a warning sign for R. Ph.s who are looking for an expanded role in managed care, a Medicare-sponsored disease management pilot program in Arizona is using nurses rather than pharmacists to call patients and provide information about managing their disease.

The first two diseases targeted in the program are diabetes and chronic asthma--two illnesses in which proper drug use can be pivotal.

The two-year project is a joint effort between the Health Care Financing Administration and Aetna Health Plans, strictly for fee-for-service Medicare patients in the state, explained a spokeswoman for HCFA. As many as 5,500 Medicare patients can voluntarily participate in the program by filling out and sending back a postcard that was sent to them by Aetna in September. As of mid-October, enrollment was still open.

During the first week of October, nurses began making phone calls to patients who had returned the postcards, she added. The way the program is structured, nurses make a phone call to each enrollee and provide general counseling on the management of his or her disease. Follow-up calls are provided if the patient requests them. The nurses advise patients to call their physician to answer any specific questions about patients' personal concerns about their disease.

When asked why nurses and not pharmacists are involved in counseling patients in this program, the HCFA spokeswoman responded, "The reason R.N.s were chosen for this counseling program is that it's focused on the whole person, including diet and exercise, helping

patients

understand what their physician has prescribed for them.

"The nurses will help the patients understand the treatment plan that their physician has prescribed for them," she continued. "It goes beyond whatever drugs diabetics or asthmatics would take. R.N.s are trained in a wide variety of areas."

The nurses provide the counseling by phone, she added. Follow-up calls can be made if the patients request them. And the service is free for participants.

On Aetna's side, spokesman John Dube explained, "What the program is providing is general information about leading the kind of healthy lifestyle that will help in the overall management of the condition of patients--that will improve their outlook for the future without giving very specific medical or pharmaceutical advice. …

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