Pharmacists help patients navigate the healthcare system
As healthcare professionals, pharmacists help patients navigate the healthcare system on a daily basis: providing medication and disease state counseling, calling providers to address drug-drug interactions or duplications in therapy, and recommending more cost-effective solutions, when appropriate. However, when we experience healthcare from the patient perspective, we start to realize that there are gaps that still exist in patient care due to the focus on acute needs and limited time devoted to self-care and preventive health. It is often said that doctors make the worst patients, and pharmacists are not an exception to this rule. Many times we may delay our own care due to time constraints or chasing the never-ending to-do list without realizing that prioritizing our health can provide us with the energy and mental clarity to make headway on these tasks much more efficiently. In order to promote health and wellness, we need to take a step back from chasing the treatment of symptoms and start looking at the root cause of a problem.
Commitment to health and wellness
As a pharmacy owner, Dr. Amina Abubakar is always considerate about the needs of the community and how we can think creatively to address these needs through the pharmacy. Pharmacists serve as valuable resources for patients, however, you will often see patients turning to non-healthcare professionals for advice on how to improve their health. It is not uncommon to see high school students working in stores that specialize in health and nutrition-related products and giving advice on what supplements customers should take without knowing their medical history or current medications. Not only does this pose a health risk to the patient, it can also lead patients to spend unnecessary money on products that do not work. This is one of the reasons why Rx Clinic Pharmacy transitioned to a new name and brand that represents the company’s commitment to health and wellness.
Nutrition and lifestyle modifications
When clinical pharmacist Dr. Desiree Gaines thought back to why Avant Pharmacy and Wellness started a wellness program, she shared how she was inspired to take action on her own health. As a mother of three, Dr. Desiree Gaines is no stranger to a busy day, dedicating her time to others in and outside of the workplace. She serves as a clinical pharmacist, conducting services like the Medicare annual wellness visit (AWV), chronic care management (CCM), and remote physiologic monitoring (RPM) for assisted living facilities and primary care clinics in the Charlotte area. It was during these patient encounters that Dr. Gaines started to recognize the importance of addressing nutrition and lifestyle modifications. She cares for patients with complex medication regimens, oftentimes 10 or more medications, and after having conversations with patients, she realized that the medications prescribed were often used to treat the side effects of another medication. Additionally, when it came to conversations on nutrition, patients were often unaware of how they could make changes to their diet or lifestyle to manage some of these symptoms. Many patients commented on how they did not know where to start. This led her to reflect on her own childhood where conversations on the nutritional value of food were not a routine part of her culture. It was an eye-opener for her to realize the need in the community to provide education on the relationship between nutrition and health.
Functional medicine and wellness
Dr. Amina Abubakar encouraged Dr. Desiree Gaines to explore this interest and passion and make this information easily accessible for patients through the pharmacy. Dr. Gaines pursued a foundational course with Dr. Kathy Campbell with NCPA as well as additional training in functional medicine and wellness. After Dr. Gaines and Dr. Abubakar tested the model themselves, they felt confident in the design of the program. Much like the inherent approach of functional medicine to address the root cause of a disease, the team at Avant Pharmacy and Wellness focuses on an individualized approach to wellness and weight loss strategies while empowering patients to make lasting change. This includes baseline and post-program lab work, personalized supplement regimens and meal plans as well as frequent follow-up with the clinical pharmacy team. However, one of the key things that makes the program successful is the approach to identify the true source of a patient’s concerns. This may include addressing social determinants of health (SDOH) and coordinating care or seeing how wellness can be addressed through other clinical programs, such as chronic care management. It is these innovative models of care that make the conversations on health and wellness possible.
Incorporating lab work
In addition to having a health coach and advocate, Dr. Gaines believes that lab work plays a significant role in the program. Too many times she sees programs that focus solely on weight, which can serve as a stumbling block for many people that do not see the physical changes in their body. Dr. Gaines commented on how in our society, we want to see it before we can believe it. By incorporating lab work in the beginning and end of the program, those enrolled in the wellness program can see how they are transforming their health. She works with a lab company that is accessible across the country to accommodate those who may be participating in the program virtually. Even in its pilot phase, the program has seen great success. Program participants have seen their A1C reduce by 3% in only 12 weeks, blood pressures reduced significantly, and electrolytes and vitamin levels improve, such as Vitamin D3. Many others have reduced their insulin doses or have had medications discontinued due to improvements in health. Dr. Gaines sees this program as an opportunity to empower patients and provide them with all the tools they need to live successfully.
Having gone through their own transformations, you will often see Dr. Gaines sharing her workouts with her kids or vegetable garden via social media while Dr. Abubakar shares her healthy recipe posts online. There is never a dull day in the kitchen as they explore the impact that nutrition, supplements, and a focus on wellness can have on not only their physical health but also their well being. As pharmacists, they are now helping connect the dots for patients as well as other healthcare professionals to incorporate this into routine practice. What started as a passion has now led to a sustainable wellness model as well as a transformed approach to patient care for the many patients Avant Pharmacy and Wellness serves through collaborations.
Author: Dr. Amina Abubakar
Reach out to Avant Pharmacy and Wellness Center here.