Having a diagnosis requiring a specialty medication “can be very overwhelming, especially if the diagnosis is related to a rare or complex disease,” said Kelly Mathews, PharmD, CSP, the director of clinical services for Avella, in a telephone interview. “[Patients] may not have ever heard of their condition before or know anyone else who has gone through that experience. They may or may not have family support, may be in a rural area where it’s challenging to get connected to other patients or may have difficulties getting back to their doctor’s office, depending on how far away they live. Our specialty pharmacists help engage patients through different programs to address all of these issues and help them take these complex medications from home.”
Avella pharmacists make use of text messaging programs to send patients and their caregivers reminders to take or refill their medications, or to send motivational messages and notes of encouragement. They also have trialed smart pill bottles that prompt patients to take their medications. But direct communication is at the core of their patient management strategy: The company has a clinical team of pharmacists and nurses dedicated to patient outreach, including initial consultations and follow-up calls to see how therapy is going and inquire about side effects. During the initial call, the team tells patients about community support groups or additional resources such as support lines offered by their medication’s manufacturer.
Starter kits sent to patients for new medications often include additional items like a pill box to organize medications, a disposal container for sharps, or lotion samples or socks to help with anticipated side effects, such as rashes or dry skin.
“We provide a lot of education and tools that patients can use up front to be successful with their therapy and stay engaged,” Dr. Mathews said.