June 7 marks National Cancer Survivors Day. In today’s Care Corner Blog, we feature one of our own pharmacy liaisons who bravely defeated cancer and now assists those in the Shields care model going through their own battles with the disease which is one of the leading causes of death around the world.
Tiffany Yarina, an Oncology Specialty Pharmacy Liaison, is one of the nearly 17 million cancer survivors living in the United States, a population that is expected to grow to around 22 million by the year 2030, according to the American Cancer Society.
Tiffany was diagnosed with Stage 1 Diffuse Large B-Cell non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on November 4, 2005. She battled through three rounds of chemotherapy and then 20 radiation treatments to the head and neck as the cancer was situated in her left tonsil.
“My feelings were all over the place,” Tiffany said upon hearing her diagnosis. “Hearing those words from my doctor made me have an out-of-body experience. At that very moment, I felt like I rose off the seat and looked down at my casket and my family. I was depressed, scared, shocked.”
It was the hardest thing she has ever battled, but she persevered, and she never wavered. On March 17, 2006, Tiffany got the all-clear. Her cancer was in remission.
“I was elated,” she said. “It felt surreal and all I knew was that my hair was going to come back! I also felt an incredible sense of gratitude: to my family, my doctors, the universe, and God.”
Oncology is usually the first disease state that a specialty pharmacy focuses on after their initial launch, and Shields Health Solutions helped treat nearly 15,000 oncology patients around the country in the past year. Oncology is a fast-growing disease state with a large volume of patients and oncology/hematology specialists. Oncology drugs are mostly open access but due to the complexity of treatment regimens and side effect management, pharmacists are particularly well-equipped to provide care coordination, giving value to providers and patients alike.
The Shields care model is integrated with our health system partners. This allows the clinical pharmacist team to engage with the patient at least monthly to ensure safe and effective therapy; and has direct access to intervene with the provider. More than 60 percent of pharmacist interventions for oncology patients are for medication safety and are associated with fewer therapy complications, improved adherence, and side effect resolutions. Shields’ services have recorded $5.8 million in cost avoidance with a 96.2 percent clinical intervention acceptance rate.
In the last 12 months, the Shields care model has aided the clinic staff by saving them 198,000 hours of paperwork and secured $457 million in financial assistance while delivering an average copay of just $15. Tiffany and oncology liaisons like her play a crucial role in the Shields care model, ensuring patients receive the proper care and assistance during and even after the duration of their treatment plan. With our liaisons’ hard work and dedication to providing better patient care, we averaged 12-13 touchpoints per patient in the last year.
“Working with oncology patients every day is not work; it’s my passion,” Tiffany said. “As someone who truly knows what a patient and their family is going through, there are no words to describe how it makes me feel to guide them through their journey and make them feel at ease. My patients inspire me every day and the passion is always in me to work with and for them. That will never go away.”