Editor’s note: This article is Part I of a deep dive into the issues surrounding polypharmacy versus a single preferred pharmacy partner. We start by addressing how to increase resident adoption.
During the early days of assisted living, seniors relished the luxuries and freedoms this novel concept brought to life’s closing chapters. But thanks to the unprecedented tsunami of 1950s babies who are aging in the 2010s, this sector is experiencing the most profound growing pains in its short history.
This silver wave of seniors are entering assisted living in record numbers. And while they’re arriving later and relatively healthier than their predecessors, they are bringing along the baggage of multiple chronic illnesses and rising acuity. That includes dementia and Alzheimer’s, which requires intensive memory care services and a dedicated medication regimen.
Most of their issues are manageable thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, but that’s the crux: those medicines are coming from too many different sources. And as a result, it’s beginning to wreak havoc on seniors’ health and on the health of the senior living communities in charge of their care.
Assisted living owner-operators have slowly warmed to the concept of preferred pharmacy arrangements as a way to combat the problems of polypharmacy. They treaded lightly, because most baby boom seniors fiercely hold dear the freedoms they’ve earned to control their own health while negotiating and winning the battles on price and services.
PharMerica, one of the nation’s largest and oldest long-term care pharmacy services providers, developed ValueMed, a next-generation medication management program designed specifically to address the diverse challenges of assisted and senior living communities. When they approached assisted living communities with the single pharmacy idea early on, they anticipated, like others, a great deal of resistance.
They were pleasantly surprised.
“When it comes to gauging the support of not having more than one pharmacy in a community, we’ve met zero resistance,” says Dania Nussbaumer, PharMerica’s director of ValueMed Client Services. “The nurses love it because polypharmacy is more work for them, leads to more confusion, more frustration and angst from inconsistent packaging, and creates endless checks and doublechecks.”
Assisted living residents are free to choose where they get their medications: it’s baked into the regulations that govern this industry. PharMerica knew making the conversion to a single pharmacy possible and permanent would require key adoption strategies rooted in choice. That philosophy drives the success of every resident adoption program PharMerica undertakes because of the tools they provide to staff and to the residents in their care.
“These communities own it,” Nussbaumer says. “We just help them drive it.”
For their part, how do assisted living communities drive adoption to this concept of using a single preferred pharmacy provider? Communication. Once owner operators – and the residents themselves – discover the benefits of safety and medication compliance ValueMed offers, it’s an easy sell, Nussbaumer says.
“We’re finding assisted living communities love the ability to work with one preferred pharmacy,” she adds. “It means less complexity, less administrative burden, and lower labor costs.”
What owner-operators find valuable:
Communities in some markets say that having a preferred pharmacy provider gives them a competitive advantage.
“Our program is the only senior living pharmacy model standardized and scaled in all 50 states,” says Bill Deane, PharMerica’s senior vice president of senior living. “Other companies have regional coverage and others are in implementation and integration phases. We are a full-service senior living platform in all 50 states.”
A valuable tool for initial program enrollment is ValueMed’s on-site support to help residents understand the benefits and how the program works. But ValueMed also gives community owner-operators a robust Enrollment Engagement toolkit to help drive enrollment on an ongoing basis. Best practices, as well as engaging and informative materials such as brochures, posters and videos help communities share ValueMed’s benefits with their residents. Additionally, ValueMed’s seasonal health and wellness enrollment events, such as flu vaccine clinics and ask-a-pharmacist sessions, demonstrate the program’s benefits and engages residents and families year-round.
Some communities have instituted a compliance fee for residents who opt out of using the preferred pharmacy. Many use a basic flat fee, others institute a tiered plan.
Other fee programs allow residents and their families to use their own pharmacy, as long as it meets the safety, compliance and packaging of their preferred pharmacy and the residents. In some cases, program rules actually prohibit families from bringing in medications with multiple, disparate types of packaging and tracking methods.
“Operators justify the fees because of all the extra work polypharmacy puts on nurses,” Nussbaumer explained. “Communities must prioritize safety and compliance above all else for all of their residents – not just families who use the community’s preferred pharmacy provider. Most say it’s easier for them to impose a fee on the residents than it is for them to deal with 10-15 different pharmacy providers, or the residents bringing in their own medications.”
Nussbaumer says it’s unrealistic for any pharmacy services company to believe it will service every resident in every assisted living community across the country.
But it can aim high to achieve industry-leading safety and compliance for seniors as they struggle to manage multiple diseases and illnesses.
“For all the benefits this kind of program provides – for everyone from risk-averse owner-operators, over-stressed administrators and billing managers, devoted yet over-worked nurses and the residents and the families themselves – I truly believe this is the future of pharmacy services in this rapidly growing and viable segment of the senior living industry,” she says. “With the help of our resident adoption partners, we’re committed to making this a success.”
Partnering with a single preferred pharmacy which offers tangible tools to drive resident adoption reduces staff burden, simplifies care management, and improves the success of community programs. And that results in better care, increased safety, and satisfied residents. Contact us at ValueMed@PharMerica.com or 866-628-2583 to learn more.