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November 22, 2017

Senate Committee Previews Program to Connect Health Plan Participants and Pharmacists

An upcoming Pitt benefit designed to connect you more closely to a pharmacist’s perspective on the effects of your medications was previewed at the University Senate’s benefits and welfare committee meeting on Nov. 8.

The free comprehensive medication management (CMM) program, still under development, would roll out in January 2018 at the earliest, said committee member Luke Berenbrok, an assistant professor of pharmacy and therapeutics in the School of Pharmacy and director of the school’s community service practice.

From its headquarters, tentatively set for the University pharmacy in Mark A. Nordenberg Hall, CMM would offer Pitt employees who participate in a University health plan in-person or phone appointments with a pharmacist who can discuss medication plans and coordinate any suggested modifications with other members of an individual’s medical team, such as a doctor.

Berenbrok noted that closer collaboration among health care professionals “is a newer thing in pharmacy,” but will aid physicians as they move from billing by the quantity of procedures they perform to emphasizing the quality of patient health outcomes. Pharmacists have long held medication management conversations with individuals picking up prescriptions at a pharmacy counter, Berenbrok added, but “those conversations haven’t been as robust as they could be.” Often, they happen too quickly or fail to address all the medications a person may be taking.

CMM pharmacists will be able to discuss how best to use your individual medications and can conduct finger-prick blood testing for various conditions during the appointment. They will also be able to conduct basic tests such as blood pressure measurements.

Berenbrok also said that CMM pharmacists will be able to inform patients about available discounts for medications, such as drug company coupons, that could make previously unaffordable prescriptions accessible.

“We believe the pharmacists can make a big difference for the health of our community,” Berenbrok said.

When people take the appropriate medications at the correct dosage and frequency, they have fewer emergency room and doctor’s office visits and fewer long-term health problems resulting in hospitalizations, he added. He noted that UPMC Health Plan — part of the team formulating the CMM benefit — should thus see a decrease in spending per member once the program is in place.

Berenbrok said the benefit will first seek to involve those with multiple chronic conditions, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, asthma, depression or congestive heart failure, plus those using pain medication or tobacco products.

MyHealth Questionnaire, Privacy Concern Discussed

In other committee business, committee chair Linda Tashbook expressed concern that the MyHealth Questionnaire — offered as one wellness incentive for University medical plan participants to earn reward dollars — was asking questions that were too personal and outside of health concerns.

Tashbook, the foreign international comparative law librarian in the School of Law’s Barco Law Library, asked: “Why are they collecting this information about how much time off we take and why we take it and whether we think others in our profession work harder or less hard than we do?”

She also wondered whether the University or its health insurer kept records of the answers attached to employee names.

Val Jamison, senior account executive with UPMC Health Plan who was in attendance at the meeting, responded that the answers are only aggregated to determine whether there were issues for which the health plan should create new stress management tools. Individual answers are also used to show respondents potential health risk factors created by life circumstances.

Lori Carnvale, director of benefits in the Office of Human Resources, noted that there were multiple alternative wellness incentives for University health plan members to pursue, and that individual questions may also be skipped on the questionnaire.


Marty Levine,, 412-758-4859


Filed under: Feature,Volume 50 Issue 7

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