For Genoa Healthcare pharmacist Vikram Sundararaman, PharmD, “relationships” is the first word that springs to his mind when he talks about providing high-quality pharmacy care.
Sundararaman recently received the 2020 Community Pharmacy Innovation in Quality Award, individual category, from the Pharmacy Quality Alliance (PQA) and the Community Pharmacy Foundation (CPF). The prestigious award recognizes individuals for their innovative and pioneering practices of pharmacy care.
Innovative Community Pharmacy Services
Sundararaman is based at Genoa Healthcare’s Hammond, Indiana, pharmacy, which is integrated within an Oak Street Health clinic. There, he’s known for delivering superb pharmacy care and for building warm, trusting relationships with both consumers and care providers. To do this, Sundararaman likes to step away from the pharmacy counter to conduct aerobics classes, call BINGO games and host birthday parties for consumers in the clinic’s community room.
“Vikram’s professionalism, combined with his presence and approachability, are the essence of how Genoa Healthcare strives to deliver pharmacy care,” said Bill Guptail, chief operations officer at Genoa Healthcare.
We spoke with Sundararaman to learn why relationships with consumers, providers and clinic staff are at the heart of his work.
Your ability to build relationships is what sets you apart. Why is building relationships such an important part of your role?
It’s crucial to our success that all members of the care team are on board and engaged. We make an effort to create personal connections with our consumers and, just as importantly, with our clinic partners so they trust the value we bring to the team.
How do you keep your consumers at the core of what you do?
Our consumers’ health is our number one priority, and helping them stay on their medications is a critical part of that. We get to know our consumers on a personal level to help address all of their needs, whether it be medication use, finding strategies to help them remember to take their prescriptions, or even their ability to pick up their prescriptions.
We also strive to engage with our consumers in non-clinical ways. We attend their exercise classes, have been known to entertain them and really just show them the love, compassion, and respect they deserve. We want our consumers to visit our pharmacy because they want to, not because they have to.
You achieved an incredible Net Promoter (NPS) customer satisfaction score of 95 last year. Why do you think this is?
It’s just part of the culture we’ve worked very hard to build at our pharmacy. Our consumers, as well as our clinic partners, recognize that we are an important part of their health care team. We regularly make efforts to connect with them. This has been especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic since most of our consumers represent the highest risk populations and have limited access to so many of the services and human-contact that we might otherwise take for granted.
Can you think of a time when your ability to build relationships helped a consumer, or clinic staff?
On day one at my pharmacy, a nurse asked us for advice with a consumer’s prescription. The consumer had been recently discharged and was having trouble finding a pharmacy that could obtain the medication she needed.
A few phone calls, assistance with the prior authorization, and a trip to another Genoa location over the lunch break was what it took to deliver the prescription, the same day, to that consumer. It was the beginning of a relationship built on trust and ability, and we’ve never looked back.
How do relationships translate to improved outcomes?
When we know our consumers, we can start to understand what gets in the way of taking their medications. As we build those relationships, we start to care for them just as we would a member of the family. When we don’t hear from a consumer or when we notice patterns that stray from the normal course, we are better equipped to recognize and mitigate those challenges when they occur.
You are part of a value-based program (in which you are rewarded for delivering better outcomes. What have you learned about the role pharmacy can have in a value-based model, and how does that translate to a person’s well-being?
Our value-based model at Oak Street Health is a perfect fit for our two organizations as our priorities are well-aligned in the pursuit of shared success. The proof is in the pudding; due to our hard work, the relationships we’ve fostered, and the sound clinical decisions we make together, our consumers have seen a noticeable and significant increase in medication adherence, along with a reduction in hospitalizations and readmissions.