MARSHFIELD — For many people taking medications, it is not always easy to understand dosing regimens, dosage rates and times, the benefits of taking medications, and the consequences if they are not taken.
For the underinsured or uninsured, those challenges can be exacerbated, and it is even more difficult trying to obtain and afford their medications, but a new benefit offered at the St. Vincent de Paul Free Medical Clinic is helping solve these problems.
Pharmacists now play a larger role at the free clinic, serving as a vital member of the team of physicians, nurses, and other health care providers from Marshfield Clinic, Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital, and members of the community who also volunteer their services.
The pharmacists meet with patients prior to and after their physician appointments. They obtain information about current medications and which ones need to be refilled. After discussing the patient’s needs with the nurse and physician, the pharmacist then counsels the patient on any changes or additions, determines the most cost effective medications, and gives out free samples if possible. Any additional cost for medications is covered by the free clinic with financial support from Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital.
“The patients enjoy talking to us. We’re sometimes a little less intimidating than a physician,” said Ashley Lorenzen, a clinical pharmacist at Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital. “The process takes a little extra time, but we are able to obtain valuable information for the physician and provide education and counseling for the patients, something they didn’t receive before our increased involvement. It’s important that they know why the medications are needed and how to take them correctly so they can be positive advocates for their own health.”
The ultimate benefits of the free clinic are to help patients manage their conditions, improve their health, and eventually reduce the cost to the individual and to the taxpayers for medical care to low income residents.
The clinic is offered three evenings a month and typically sees 10 to 20 patients a night. On each of those nights, two to three pharmacists, pharmacy residents, and/or students from both Marshfield Clinic and Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital run the free clinic.
Lorenzen, who was instrumental in advancing the pharmacist role at the free clinic, gave an example of how one gentleman benefitted from the service.
“One patient came to the clinic with high blood pressure. We started him on a combination blood pressure medication and an aspirin for heart protection,” she said. “We also gave him a blood pressure monitor and asked him to take his pressure once a day at different times.”
The patient came back a month later with his blood pressure log, wanting to make sure he was doing things correctly since his blood pressure was highest at the end of the day.
“He told us he was taking the medication just before bed, and in looking at his log, we advised him to try taking it with his breakfast, so it would affect his blood pressure at the end of the day,” Lorenzen said. “He was very thankful for our service. It’s nice to see patients who want to improve their health. When we can provide something as simple as a blood pressure cuff and two medications that can help them get better, that’s what makes our job rewarding.”