Pharmacy school’s Medicare Part D clinics close to milestone
The Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy Medicare Part D outreach clinics, founded in 2007, are expected to serve their 10,000th patient this fall.
The student-run clinics, which help older community members and others with Medicare save on prescription costs and ensure medicine safety, have served 9,494 people over the past 14 years. The school estimates clients have saved a combined $9.35 million on their out-of-pocket prescription drug costs—an average of almost $1,000 per person versus remaining on more costly plans. On average, nearly eight out of every 10 beneficiaries that are served by the program stand to save on their drug costs.
“I remember vividly the first year we did this we assisted 72 patients,” Professor Rajul Patel said. “Medicare Part D had just come out and many people were confused about the program. We thought we could help out. The turnout was not great but we stuck with it. And we have grown. The year before the pandemic, we served 1,600 beneficiaries.”
The schedule for San Joaquin County and virtual clinics is here. The clinics also offer a review of patients’ medications, prescription and over-the-counter, to ensure they are safe and effective to take together.
This year the clinics will expand by offering Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccinations, including the booster shots for those who qualify. In addition, COVID-19 testing will be available at most sites.
The vaccines and testing were made possible through partnerships with San Joaquin General Hospital and San Joaquin County Public Health, Patel said. “We are very grateful for their collaboration.”
Other services available include the flu vaccine and screenings for blood pressure, bone density, cholesterol and diabetes.
“While the focus is on our traditional work, these additions will make the clinics more of a ‘one-stop health care shop’ that we are happy to share with the community,” Patel said.
In-depth preparation a key to success
The pharmacy students have thorough training and do extensive planning in preparation for the clinics. Following a two-semester class, each of the 54 students are expected to work at eight or more clinics. They also are in charge of marketing.
“I am pleased we will be doing it in person this year. I only got to participate virtually last year, and this should be a better experience for patients and students,” said Rachel Torres, a third-year student from Hercules. “We will get to see the whole flow and have a great learning experience. That being said, I do think our outcomes were still very good last year despite doing the work virtually."
“I am appreciative of working in a community environment for these clinics. We get to experience building relationships with patients, which is so important.”
Thorough safety precautions will be taken for all of the in-person clinics, including a masking protocol accentuated with a unique device.
Each student will be equipped with three layers of masks—cloth, surgical and a shield—while the patients also must be masked. Because of the potential difficulty for some patients to hear through all the layers of masking, the pharmacy students will use a device called a “pocket talker” that eliminates excess ambient noise and makes communication easier.
“The masks will provide safety and we will have many other precautions. It is required that patients be vaccinated to receive our services at the in-person events,” Torres said.
The students’ passion for the event is rewarding to their instructors—and to others in the pharmacy school, Patel said.
“For the community, this is our signature outreach program,” Patel said. “We are pleased to serve and grateful for all of the experiential learning opportunities for our students. They really are the ones who make this work.”
Important information for attending In-person clinics:
- Make an appointment
- Bring your Medicare card
- Bring all of your medications
- Bring a copy of your most recent lab results
- Proof of completed COVID-19 vaccination (not including the booster) must be provided prior to entering any in-person event.