(BRANDON HANSEN/Chewelah Independent)
GREATER INTEGRATION: NEW Health adding layers of care with in-house pharmacy team…
In rural Stevens County, access to healthcare can be difficult. NEW Health, which has been in the area since 1978, has been very aware of this issue and has constantly been trying to improve patients’ access to healthcare. With 180 staff members, the company has worked to see how they can provide the most comprehensive care, which can be difficult in the large geographical area of NE Washington. Still, the company has seen a 27 percent growth in total patient numbers since 2008 and is continuing to look at how they provide healthcare.
One of their most recent moves is to start offering in-house pharmacies. While the model of health clinic pharmacies isn’t new, and many people still use the model of getting a prescription and then taking it to your favorite outside pharmacy, NEW Health feels that this will give more layers of care and greater integration between the healthcare provider, pharmacist and the patient.
“Providing primary care in rural areas can be a challenge, so we’re always looking at how we can expand the care team and this brings the pharmacy into that care team,” NEW Health CEO Desiree Sweeney said.
The model of in-house pharmacies for health centers under the 340b Drug Pricing Program has been around since the early 1990s with many layers of federal regulations and requirements for clinics to follow. NEW Health had to navigate this system and recently added this model to several of their clinics, beginning to lay the groundwork on Oct. 29, 2018 and then opening its first in-house pharmacy on Feb. 2. It rings true with NEW Health’s commitment to doing the most with the resources they have.
“This way we get all our clinicians to work at the highest level of their licensure,” Sweeney said. “A lot of health clinics are already using this model. In a lot of places, pharmacists are not fully utilized, despite going to eight years of school for it.”
NEW Health recently brought Chewelah graduate Aaric Ross to run their in-house pharmacies. He saw it as an opportunity to provide even more care to his local community and surrounding areas.
“With this model, we have access to patient records and lab results, more interaction with the healthcare provider,” Ross said. “So as a pharmacist, we can monitor the situation better and focus on helping the patient more. This works well for patients with chronic conditions.”
Ross also said that this allows pharmacists better opportunities to educate patients on the medicine they’re taking, understanding how to take them, when to take them and the side effects. He added that pharmacists can help manage diseases, see how the medication is working and consult with the patient.
According to NEW Health, they saw 16,923 unique patients in 2018 and 49.9 percent of those were age 45 and older when chronic conditions begin to develop.
NEW Health is able to provide pharmacy services to patients of their health clinics, and offers a sliding fee discount to the uninsured and underinsured who are below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline.
NEW Health has pharmacies set up in the Colville, Chewelah and Lake Spokane Health Clinics – which took some considerable renovations in some of the buildings. Another Chewelah grad, Johnny McCanna, was also hired by NEW Health as a pharmacist as was Kylie McCullough, and they are looking at bringing a fourth pharmacist on board.
NEW Health uses a new high-tech bag system with redundant safety features to ensure that patients are getting the right medicine. NEW Health also offers an app that allows people to renew prescriptions and chat with a pharmacist in a two-way chat during business hours.
These services can also be accessed on the NEW Health web portal.
So while rural medicine has been a challenge in areas such as Stevens County, companies like NEW Health are looking at ways to integrate their clinics and provide a full breadth of services for their local patients.