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Preventing DVT Helps Patients and Bottom Lines

Apr 09, 2010

PHARMACISTS LYNDA THOMAS, Pharm.D., CACP, and Michael Palladino, Pharm.D., are part of a new wave of clinical specialists who oversee patients’ anticoagulation therapy post surgery.

Michael Palladino, Pharm.D., inpatient anticoagulation coordinator of the Jefferson Center for Vascular Diseases, speaks with a patient about the importance of DVT prevention.

They help ensure that orthopedic surgery patients don’t develop deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a potentially dangerous and often preventable condition common among orthopedic surgery patients. The best defense against DVT, anticoagulant therapy also comes with inherent risks. Leaders at Thomas Jefferson University (TJU) Hospital in Philadelphia see pharmacists as best equipped to keep patients safe post surgery.

“Warfarin is one of the top 10 drugs for medical errors,” noted Thomson, inpatient anticoagulation coordinator of the Jefferson

Center for Vascular Diseases, Thomas Jefferson University (TJU) Hospital in Philadelphia. TJU Hospital performs some 3,000 joint surgeries each year.

A New Wave

The pharmacists at TJU help to ensure that a new wave of clinical specialists who oversee patients’ anticoagulation therapy post surgery and help to ensure patients discharged on warfarin and other blood thinners transition safely home. Preventing adverse events and readmissions are key parts of their jobs.

“It’s an excellent chance for pharmacists to demonstrate the value and the return on investment from implementing these clinical services,” said Cynthia Reilly, B.S. Pharm., director of ASHP’s Practice Development Division.

Pharmacists Key to Prevention

Palladino, who is coordinator of the center’s orthopedic anticoagulation program, and Thomson focus on patient and family education around high-risk medications such  as warfarin and other bloodthinners. Their efforts helped TJU meet recent Joint Commission requirements around patient education for anticoagulant therapy.

In working with patients directly, “we’re first asking questions of the patient to get important information,” Palladino said. He added that pharmacists are best positioned to spot possible risks for each patient and to determine the drug and dose to prescribe to avoid bleeding complications or other risks.

TJU Hospital has instituted a computerized physician-order entry system, with automatic order sets prompting prescribers to assess each surgical patient for bleeding complications before offering appropriate prophylaxis anticoagulant options based on the patient’s risk.

“It’s an educational tool, as well as an order set,” Palladino said.

The pharmacists then work with patients to help them understand their medicines, the importance of follow-up monitoring, adherence, and drug-food interactions, and the potential for adverse drug reactions and drug interactions. Time is also spent calling health plans to advocate for patient needs, such as coverage for certain drugs or equipment.

Pharmacists also oversee proper care transitions for patients, scheduling labs and arranging for home health services. For the latter, pharmacists call each patient twice a week for six weeks post discharge to answer questions and ensure that each patient’s recovery goes smoothly.

“We’re transitioning patients back to the primary care physician,” said Thomson, adding that surgeons appreciate the help.

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