At Shields Health Solutions, improving lives and elevating performance are at the heart of everything we do, which is why we must show our support and drive better outcomes for all patients. This September, we want to highlight Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month (RDAM) by sharing our teams’ fantastic work supporting patients battling rheumatoid arthritis, which is one of more than a hundred rheumatic diseases – disorders characterized by inflammation of various connective or supporting structure of the body. We sat down with one of our Clinical Pharmacists, Somy Babu, PharmD, CCM, to learn more about her experience supporting patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and working within specialty pharmacy.
Q: Can you tell us what steered your interest in Health-System Specialty Pharmacy?
SB: Before working for Shields, I worked as a managed care pharmacist at an insurance company, and I felt there was more for me to do to expand my career. So, when I looked into Shields and learned about their patient-centered care model and how much they helped people, I knew this would be a good fit for me. I have always enjoyed counseling and assisting patients in understanding their treatment plans and regimens. It made me excited to be able to learn more and help patients in the specialty population.
Q. What made you want to focus on Inflammatory diseases, such as Rheumatology Arthritis?
SB: I had a personal interest in inflammatory diseases because some of the conditions hit close to home with my family. Inflammatory conditions are relatable because I have seen some of the conditions first-hand. When discussing with patients it was very easy to empathize and put myself in the patient’s shoes.
Q: Tell us a bit about your experience in working with patients with RA or other rheumatic diseases?
SB: Each patient has their own disease course—different symptoms, areas of arthritis, how they manage their pain, how they respond to their flares, and of course their own treatment regimens. When working with RA patients (as well as any of our patients)—the key is to always listen. Listen to what is being said, work together to strategize a plan, and progress towards those goals.
Q: In your experience what are some of the biggest challenges patients with a rheumatic disease encounter both getting onto treatment and staying on treatment?
SB: In my experience, some of the biggest challenges patients face when they initiate treatment is a misunderstanding of how the medication works, how long it will take for the medication to work, along the duration of therapy. For example, in my discussions with some patients before starting therapy, they were under the impression that the medication would work in a matter of days. Without our call, those patients would not have understood that they would not see improvement/relief in symptoms right away. They may have felt discouraged thinking the medication doesn’t work, which would lead to adherence issues/concerns.
Q: How do you feel the Shields Care Model helps break down the challenges mentioned above?
SB: With our care model, some of the topics we discuss are goals of therapy, review time to benefit, duration of therapy, and the importance of adherence during our initial call. We then break down the challenges by explaining and educating the patient on what to expect when they start a new medication/treatment regimen. We follow up with the patient once therapy is initiated to check-in to see how the patient is doing. If we feel that a patient is experiencing adherence/side effects issues, we will follow up with them sooner.
By doing routine check-ins with patients, they see how we care for them. In my experience of doing routine check-ins with patients, they are appreciative of the call.
Q: What else, if anything, would be helpful for our peers to know about RA as related to Specialty Pharmacy?
SB: We need to remember that RA is a progressive, systemic disease. It can affect almost every organ in the body. When we call our patients for follow-up assessments, it is essential to continue assessing, evaluating, and engaging with patients inquiring about their current symptoms/flare-ups. Clinical pharmacists are a vital component in the patient’s interprofessional team. We can continue to identify hesitancies, adherence concerns, flare-ups throughout treatment.
As you can see, the Shields care model is instrumental in helping patients with rheumatoid arthritis feel informed about their disease and feel confident in their treatment plan. Stay tuned for our outcomes sheet coming later this month highlighting in even more detail how the Shields care model is key in providing rheumatoid arthritis patients with outstanding care.