MORE THAN A PHARMACY
Innovators making lifesaving medications during a critical shortage
When COVID-19 disrupted medical supply chains and drug hoarding began, some medications grew scarce. The pharmacy team at University Health System, however, did not panic – they got busy. They used their long-standing partnerships to acquire medications their patients needed or they found safe and effective alternatives. When necessary, the pharmacy staff used raw materials to compound drugs in short supply. They created the hard-to-find viral transport medium needed to test for COVID-19. That ensured coronavirus test kits continued to be available throughout the community.
Their expertise also proved invaluable, as University Health System became a key participant in the clinical trial of remdesivir, a drug that’s helping COVID-19 patients recover more quickly. With the pharmacy’s support in managing the supply and maintenance of the drug, University Hospital recruited more patients for the promising study than any research location IN THE WORLD.
Safety, first and always
As they pivoted to adjust to the new environment, the pharmacy team transformed their everyday safety mindset into an extraordinary master plan for crisis management.
“We have high-risk patients, like HIV and transplant patients,” explains Jennifer Rodriguez, the Director of Pharmacy for Ambulatory Services. “They need their medications but can’t risk infection by leaving their homes. So it was a balancing act for our team. Team members took care of our patients while taking care of themselves and their families. It was stressful, but the safety and well-being of our patients were never in question.”
Rodriguez quickly established PPE, personal protection equipment, protocols and altered the system’s physical pharmacy spaces. She and her team reconfigured lobbies and workstations to ensure safe distances, and installed plexiglass shields to protect patients and staff during in-person interactions.
Service through ingenuity
The pharmacy staff fast-tracked previous pilot programs—curbside, mail order and courier prescription delivery—to mitigate risks for patients. Liaisons who regularly help patients overcome language and financial barriers swiftly shifted to overcome a new barrier—patients sheltering at home. They switched from personal contact to telehealth communication. With call volumes spiking, future plans for a call center became an overnight reality. Despite the chaos, the pharmacy cared for patients without serious interruption.
Out of crisis comes compassion
“Times of crisis really bring out your true self, and just seeing the compassion and support our team gave our patients and each other, it felt like a time of unity,” Rodriguez says. “It showed us we could overcome adversity.”
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