Scot and Amy Schmidt, both University of Wyoming graduates, were fully prepared to begin their career paths as health care professionals.

That all changed when the two became owners of North Star Pharmacy and Infusion in Cheyenne. Starting in 2007, as North Star Infusion Inc., the pharmacy’s initial focus was specializing in home infusion, a therapy involving intravenous or subcutaneous administration of drugs to patients at home.

Realizing a need for a more expanded, multidisciplinary team approach to patient care with other health care providers, North Star Pharmacy joined the Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network in Wyoming, with Scot and Amy serving in leadership roles. The two provide guidance and assistance for a network of participating pharmacies.

“Merging our health care educations together allows us to care for the patient as a whole,” says Amy Schmidt, who graduated from UW in 1999 with a master’s degree in social work. “Patients are not just a drug or a hip or a knee. They are a whole person, and we are working hard to care for the patient over time as a whole.”

CPESN-WY is a network of high-performing pharmacies with a goal of increasing the quality of patient care and reducing overall health care costs. Participating pharmacies in Wyoming include North Star Pharmacy and Infusion in Cheyenne; Pole Mountain Pharmacy in Laramie; South Street Pharmacy in Wheatland; Register Cliff Pharmacy in Guernsey; City Drug in Evanston; Medicap in Casper; and Corner Stone Pharmacy and Buffalo Prescription Shop, both in Buffalo.

The CPESN-WY network already has received three opportunities, with another in the works, for value-based payment of the services that these pharmacies provide, as opposed to fee-for-service-based payment.

“Nearly 75 percent of the pharmacies in the CPESN-WY network are operated by UW School of Pharmacy alumni,” says Kem Krueger, dean of the UW School of Pharmacy. “We are very proud of the accomplishments of our pharmacy graduates and all alumni from the University of Wyoming College of Health Sciences.”

North Star Pharmacy and Infusion also is participating in a two-year national grant program – housed in CPESN-WY – called Flip the Pharmacy. Although Flip the Pharmacy has grant funding, CPESN-WY did not receive the initial funding. That did not prevent the Schmidts from seeing the benefit of participating in this practice transformation opportunity. They chose to fund the program with their own money. Flip the Pharmacy’s mission is “moving beyond filling prescriptions at a moment in time to caring for the patient over time.”

Key factors in implementing the Flip the Pharmacy program include leveraging the appointment-based model; improving patient follow-up and monitoring; developing new roles for non-pharmacy support staff; optimizing the utilization of technology and the electronic care plan; establishing working relationships with other care team members; developing the business model; and expressing value.

“Pharmacies in rural areas, like those here in Wyoming, serve both as critical access points to our health care system as well as the last review for a patient’s encounter with the health care system,” Krueger says. “The CPESN-WY network and the Flip the Pharmacy program, specifically, are building on this to transform pharmacy practice in exciting ways.”

“North Star Pharmacy and Infusion has recently built a new location that meets new national requirements to raise the standard of care that we provide to our patients,” says Scot Schmidt, who graduated from UW in 2006 with a pharmacy degree. “On average, patients see their primary care providers 3.5 times a year and their pharmacists 35 times a year. Pharmacists have been trained to be key providers on the health care team, and we can have a positive impact in caring for the health of our patients.”

Services provided by the CPESN-WY pharmacies should lead to better continuity of care and improved outcomes for the citizens of Wyoming, and offer rewarding practice opportunities for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians across the state.

Patient benefits of CPESN-WY pharmacies include medication reconciliation, clinical medication synchronization, immunizations, comprehensive medication reviews, personal medication records and face-to-face access to a pharmacist.

“Independent pharmacies are in a position where they can provide enhanced services to patients that meet needs that far exceed the dispensing of medications,” Amy Schmidt says. “With these enhanced services in our pharmacies, we can be a health care destination for our patients and a valuable resource on the multidisciplinary health care team.

“Growing our CPESN-WY network with more high-performing pharmacies throughout the state will strengthen our network; allow pharmacists to contract with payers to receive payment for their knowledge; and allow more residents in the state of Wyoming to benefit from this enhanced form of pharmacy care,” she adds.

The UW School of Pharmacy is partnering with CPESN-WY and Jack Mason, professor of practice in the UW College of Engineering and Applied Science, to increase entrepreneurship training for pharmacy students. In addition to guest lectures from CPESN-WY members, pharmacists from 15 pharmacies across the state are working with groups of second- and third-year pharmacy students to create business canvases, or mini-business plans, for a potential new patient service. The third-year students then have the opportunity to work with these pharmacies to implement the new services during their fourth-year clinical rotations.

Participating pharmacies include Medicap Pharmacy in Casper; Shatto’s Frontier Drug in Douglas; Pioneer Pharmacy in Riverton; Vicklund Pharmacy in Thermopolis; Weston County Health Services Pharmacy in Newcastle; Hospital Pharmacy West in Sheridan; Altitude Drug in Pinedale; Greybull Drug in Greybull; Powell Drug Store in Powell; North Star Pharmacy and Infusion in Cheyenne; Pole Mountain Pharmacy in Laramie; Medicap Pharmacy in Casper; Community Drug in Torrington; and City Drug in Evanston.

Partnerships such as these have tremendous potential to enhance student learning, expand pharmacy services and improve the care provided to Wyoming citizens, Krueger says.

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