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Transplant Pharmacy team went extra mile during winter ice storm

Apr. 29, 2021, 9:17 AM

Members of the Transplant Pharmacy team went to great lengths to make sure patients received their medications during February’s ice storm. (photo by Susan Urmy)

by Emily Stembridge

In February, a frigid winter storm swept across the United States, causing widespread chaos — including power outages, water shortages and business shutdowns. Amid the disaster, many kidney transplant patients in Middle Tennessee did not receive deliveries of their immunosuppressant medications due to hazardous road conditions.

“We had packages waiting to be picked up, packages stuck in transit and packages scheduled to go out over the next few days,” said Rachel Chelewski, PharmD, CSP. “Everything came to a halt for the week, except for one single delivery truck.”

Thankfully, the Transplant Pharmacy recognized the possible consequences of the delays and acted quickly to ensure patients received their medications.

“These medications are meant to prevent rejection, and they have to be taken every day,” Chelewski said. “Missed doses are a really big deal, especially for a prolonged period. Without them, patients may reject their new transplants.”

The Transplant Pharmacy started helping by sending out automated phone calls to patients, letting them know that their prescription would be delayed due to inclement weather. The messaging system provided a phone number for the pharmacy, allowing for patients to easily call back and request pickup for their medications at local pharmacies.

After identifying the patients who needed help, the Transplant Pharmacy worked to recall delayed packages, send prescriptions to local pharmacies, and reverse insurance billing claims so affected patients could easily pick up their medications without having to pay out of pocket.

Finding some of the medications locally was a difficult task, since they are not usually kept in stock by nonspecialty pharmacies. But with help from the Transplant Pharmacy, nearly 100 vital prescriptions were filled and picked up by renal transplant patients, who otherwise would have gone several days without.

The Transplant Pharmacy was able to directly prescribe medications for these patients thanks to a collaborative pharmacy practice agreement with the Renal Transplant Clinic. Established in 2017, the agreement eases the workload for transplant physicians, allowing them to spend more time with patients instead of prescribing medications.

Chelewski explained that due to the storm, the Renal Transplant Clinic was inundated with requests to reschedule canceled appointments and to handle delayed lab results, in addition to their everyday tasks. “Thanks to our established relationship with the clinic, we were able to really minimize the workload they had that week by handling requests for delayed prescriptions,” she said.

“We all had to come together as a team and help each other,” said Chelewski. “It was stressful for everyone involved, but we knew we had to do what we could — what was in our reach — to get the medications to our patients.”

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