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Partnering with Senior-Savvy Pharmacists to Support Lifespark Members Who Need Us Most

  • Nov 16, 2023
  • Cathy Gasiorowicz
  • 4-min Read

It’s natural to assume that pharmacists are in the business of dispensing medications, but experts in senior-savvy pharmacy are upending that business model. “As geriatric pharmacists, we look at each client with deprescribing in mind,” said Terri Fagan, RPh, CGP, Director of Clinical Services at Consonus Pharmacy. “It might seem counterintuitive, but deprescribing is the hallmark of what we do.”

Terri and her colleague, Carrie McClaughry, PharmD, Assistant Director of Clinical Services, lead a team of certified geriatric pharmacists who collaborate with Lifespark providers to help clients maintain their independence and quality of life. “Our goal is to help seniors live the best rest of their lives,” Carrie said.

Benefiting from expertise

Lifespark initially partnered with Consonus to serve its Senior Living communities, but as the relationship grew, it became clear that Consonus’ expertise in geriatric pharmacology could also benefit Lifespark’s most complex and frail members.

“The goal of the partnership isn’t to outsource the important role of prescribing and deprescribing, but to integrate this expertise into the Lifespark team,” said Dr. Nick Schneeman, MD, Lifespark Chief Medical Officer. “At the same time, we’re building our in-house knowledge and skills.”

Transitions of care

A major focus of the Consonus partnership is supporting members during transitions, historically a risky time for older adults. “When a member moves from one setting to another, such as hospital to TCU [transitional care unit] or assisted living to memory care, or they have a change in their health condition, there’s a much greater risk of medication errors,” Carrie said. “Our Transitions of Care Pharmacists collaborate with providers across the health care spectrum to ensure that each individual has the right medications.”

The Transitions team also supports clients who live in the community, either in their own home or with family, and who may be new to Lifespark. “These are members with complex medical histories, multiple chronic conditions, and on a lot of medications,” Carrie said. “Polypharmacy—being on more than four medications—is a huge problem for older adults because it puts them at greater risk for adverse medical events.”

Collaborative approach

At the request of a Lifespark provider, Consonus can provide a second set of eyes on a new medication or perform a comprehensive medication review. After the Consonus team reviews the med list, provider notes, and documentation, they’ll have a back-and-forth dialogue with the Lifespark provider before making any recommendations. “If a lab report or some other piece of information isn’t in the member’s chart, we don’t make any assumptions—we ask questions,” Carrie said.

Another component of the partnership is being part of Lifespark’s interdisciplinary meetings. “We’re invited to join their internal meetings so we can learn about the members beyond what’s been documented in their medical chart,” Carrie said. “With that deeper level of understanding, we can make suggestions in real time.”

When suggesting a new medication to a Lifespark provider, Consonus is always conscious of costs. “Some newer drugs are more expensive, but they have fewer negative side effects which in the long run could prevent costly ER visits and hospitalizations,” Terri said. “What makes these discussions gratifying is that Lifespark and Consonus have similar philosophies of care: doing what’s right for the individual.”

Collaborating with the different Lifespark providers—Life Managers, advanced practice providers, as well as Dr. Schneeman, Dr. Jonathan Weiner, Lifespark Medical Director, and others, has been both meaningful and fun for the Consonus team. “It’s been wonderful getting to know the members holistically, not just their medical diagnoses, but also learning about their life stories, their goals of care, and how we can help improve their outcomes,” she said.

Synergy sparks excitement

Both Terri and Carrie feel deep synergies with Lifespark’s approach to complete senior health. “Lifespark models the concept of an age-friendly health system that revolves around the individual and what we call the four M’s: Medication, Mentation, Mobility, and Matters—as in what matters most to the member, resident, or client—and taking all of that into consideration for how to best support them,” Terri said. “I also love that Lifespark sees the value of the geriatric pharmacist.”

What excites Carrie about the partnership is having direct access to the providers who support and serve the members. “Being able to talk to the people who are face-to-face with the members gives us richer, deeper, and more complete information,” she said. “It’s like getting the whole book instead of just a chapter—it allows us to do our best work for Lifespark’s clients, and that brings meaning to our work.”

To learn more about Lifespark’s approach to aging magnificently, visit Lifespark.com.

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