By Lindsay Dymowski
As the population ages, innovations and technological advancements continue to emerge that help people live longer, healthier lives. The surge of popularity in the concept of aging-in-place has driven some of these advancements, including smart technology and monitoring apps.
Telehealth and pharmacies focused on the chronically ill living at home are not new developments. However, in more recent years, they have been refined to assist people needing long-term care (LTC) to stay in their homes, save money, and experience better health outcomes.
The changing face of long-term care
Medical models are changing. At one time, it was expected that once people became unable to manage their own medical needs at home, they would move to a LTC facility where nursing staff could manage their medication dosing and doctor interaction. But with a shift to more value-based care, aging-in-place in one's home is becoming more preferred. Recent data shows that 77% of adults over the age of 50 wish to stay in their homes as they age.
During the pandemic, people began working from home, hunkered down with family during the stay-at-home orders, and created a more home-centered way of life. This movement towards the home has likely influenced the shifting attitude towards where people are choosing to age and receive care.
With this changing medical model and public perception, the medication-at-home pharmacy model has grown by leaps and bounds in popularity. While many mom-and-pop community pharmacies offered at-home delivery of prescriptions for years, larger national pharmacies have been jumping on board the growing trend. In addition, the rise in clinical pharmacies and everything they have to offer in terms of technology-influenced healthcare has played a notable role in the increased adaptation to medication-at-home care models.
Accessibility and adherence
There are many benefits to utilizing an at-home pharmacy. Many of the benefits address pain points that seniors report, such as the growing expense of prescription medications and the difficulty of traveling to brick-and-mortar stores.
Accessibility and mobility are very real concerns of aging. Even the normal slowing-down brought about by aging can keep people from being able to visit their local pharmacist regularly. This accessibility issue combined with other limits of daily living such as meal prep, bathing, or easy communication leads to people either skipping prescribed medications or rationing medication to stretch the time between pharmacy visits. This non-adherence to their provider's medical plan can lead to increased hospital visits and admissions and even death.
Through at-home pharmacies, those aging in place and chronically ill are able to better adhere to their doctor's medication plan. Issues such as running out of refills, running out of medication before a weekend, or medication changes can be easily managed by today's full-service at-home pharmacies, which go beyond the simple "fill-and-bill" models of traditional pharmacies.
Cost savings benefits
The cost of prescription drugs is one of patients' primary concerns today, as they have sharply risen in recent years. While there have been bills introduced in congress with the hope of easing the cost of prescription medications, seniors on fixed incomes are still seeking ways of reducing their prescription costs overall.
Seniors attempting to age-in-place at home are particularly vulnerable to high prescription costs. Millions of American seniors are frequently prescribed multiple medications by their care providers, some of which may be very expensive or not have generic equivalents. Others may lack prescription drug coverage or have a fixed income that makes prescription drugs often out of reach.
Thankfully, there are cost reductions available to at-home pharmacy providers that are not available to other medication vendors. Because these pharmacies can often avoid administrative costs and other overhead that plague traditional community pharmacies, they can join preferred networks for Medicare and offer tailored pharmacy services at no charge. In addition to reduced costs, many insurance companies, including Medicare Part D providers, are embracing the medication-at-home care model and properly reimbursing pharmacies for the additional services, at no extra charge to the individual patient outside of their prescription copayment.
Medication at home is changing outcomes
As medication-at-home pharmacy pioneers further refine the care model and bring ever-improving service to patients aging in place, outcomes will continue to improve overall. The technological advancements available have not only improved matters overall for patients, but for providers and pharmacists, as well. Through Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) and telehealth capabilities, at-home pharmacy teams can become part of the patient's medical management team.
Medication at home can greatly improve outcomes for patients. Improved patient adherence evident with medication-at-home patients along with better access leads to healthier patients who can live longer, fuller lives as they age in place.
The pharmacy industry is changing and adapting to the needs and desires of a population that no longer wishes to spend their golden years in a medical facility. The LTC space is rife with issues, and the popularity of medication-at-home shows a shift in the care model along with popular opinion.
Lindsay Dymowski is the president of Centennial Pharmacy Services, a leading medication-at-home pharmacy, and co-founder and principal of The Centennial Group, a pharmacy management company supporting community pharmacies and health systems. Combining her over 15 years of pharmacy experience with her entrepreneurial spirit, Lindsay knows exactly what drives successful pharmacies, launches collaborative provider programs, and gets the attention of payers - and it’s not dispensing medications. It’s how well you can support an organization's goals to better health outcomes with patient-centric pharmacy care.
Passionate about the business of pharmacy and its future in healthcare, Lindsay has presented at national conferences, received media coverage throughout various outlets, designed continuing education curriculum, and currently sits on several boards committed to the advancement of the practice of pharmacy. Along with operating Centennial, Lindsay is a wife, mother and novice gardener.
Lindsay has been featured in McKnights and MPR among other publications.