Charitable Pharmacy of Central Ohio
At the Charitable Pharmacy patient-centered care is the watchword. With the counseling and education they receive, patients are managing their illnesses better—and heading to the hospital less often.
At the Charitable Pharmacy, Patients Get More Than Just Their Medicines
Three years ago, the Livingston United Methodist Church in downtown Columbus took what pharmacist Allan Zaenger calls “a brave step.” They decided to open their doors to hundreds of lower-income individuals who lacked prescription insurance. For some time, a coalition of community leaders, representatives from local hospitals and free clinics, and clergy concerned about health care for the poor had been meeting to discuss unmet clinical needs in the city. One clear need was for assistance with prescription drugs, since even some patients with Medicare or Medicaid—not to mention the uninsured working poor—could not afford their medications. The idea of a Charitable Pharmacy arose, but it needed to be housed somewhere accessible. Livingston UMC stepped up, offering rooms at the church three days per week.
“The church permitted renovation of a whole section of the building into a functioning pharmacy,” executive director Allan Zaenger says, “and we also use the Parlor for additional medication teaching and counseling activities.”
In 2012, the Charitable Pharmacy provided nearly 50,000 prescriptions worth almost $4 million dollars to over 1,350 individuals in need. But, Zaenger emphasizes, “This is not just about pills in the bottle. We’re developing health consciousness among the patients here.”
That happens because of the Charitable Pharmacy’s intentional focus on meeting one-on-one with patients. Pharmacists answer questions and provide advice, may do basic screenings (e.g., check blood pressure), and refer patients to affordable primary care practitioners. Typically, patients range from 30 to 65 years old and are battling serious health issues: diabetes, heart disease, mental illness, or respiratory disease. “The average patient walks out of here with 7 meds,” reports Zaenger. Patients are dealing with complicated concerns, and they appreciate the opportunity to have the pharmacist really listen to them and help them design good strategies for better health and for ensuring compliance with their prescription regimens. “Our patient-centered approach allows our pharmacists to practice pharmacy the way it ought to be practiced everywhere,” Zaenger says.
In addition to Zaenger, the Pharmacy relies on clinical volunteers and on pharmacy residents from nearby Ohio State University. “OSU is pleased to have the Charitable Pharmacy as a site for student rotations because they’ve observed and experienced the patient-centered interaction here,” Zaenger reports.
Last year OSU pharmacy resident Holly Fahey conducted interviews with 206 of the Pharmacy’s patients. She found that patients reduced their use of hospitals or emergency rooms by one visit per year—which on average meant that the Pharmacy’s patients reduced their use of these facilities by nearly 50 percent. Before getting help from the Charitable Pharmacy, patients had been filling only about 41 percent of the prescriptions written for them by their doctor. Since becoming patients, that rate shot up to over 85 percent. Moreover, nearly 90 percent of the patients Fahey interviewed said that, since becoming a patient at the Charitable Pharmacy, their overall health was better, they had more control over their own health, and they knew much more about their health and their health condition than they did before participating in the Pharmacy’s program. Finally, 71 percent of patients reported have more access to health services providers including physicians, nurse practitioners, and pharmacists.