100 posts categorized "Health Policy"


Philly Issues First ‘Code Blue’ of Season: USciences Prof Explains What That Means to Homeless Population

MetrauxThose fortunate enough to be somewhere warm during this recent cold snap might wonder how Philadelphia’s homeless population can survive the frigid outdoor conditions, said Stephen Metraux, PhD, associate professor of health policy and public health at University of the Sciences.

“Data on how many homeless are stuck out in the cold is difficult to come by,” said Dr. Metraux. “The homeless population is notoriously challenging to count, as they usually strive to stay inconspicuous amidst the public spaces to which they are relegated.”

The best available number comes from the City of Philadelphia’s annual “Point in Time” count, when teams of volunteers canvass the shelters and streets and count the number of homeless people and families that they encounter. Of the estimated 5,500 homeless individuals counted on a January night in 2013, 388 of them were unsheltered. That figure is down from the 526 individuals recorded on a January night in 2012.

So how do these hundreds of homeless individuals survive below-freezing conditions? The first line of defense is provided by the City of Philadelphia, which implements a “Code Blue” on any night when temperatures fall under or hover around 20 degrees, said Dr. Metraux.

On Code Blue nights, outreach workers and police can bring in any homeless person to stay in a shelter or other public facility temporarily designated for overnight accommodations. No one gets turned away and, if necessary, a Court Ordered Transportation to Shelter can be quickly obtained to bring resistant individuals indoors on occasions when leaving a person outdoors may subject him or her to danger from the cold weather elements.

“Code Blue’s success is best indicated by the rarity of hypothermia deaths among homeless persons in the past few years,” said Dr. Metraux. “But Code Blue is at best a stopgap solution; the best solution for protecting the homeless from the elements is through renewed efforts to reduce homelessness.”

The number of homeless people living on the streets across Philadelphia has been declining over the previous few years, due largely to innovative programs that engage the most recalcitrant homeless persons and provide them with housing and services, he said. 


Students Prepared for Bioterrorist Attack During Medical Reserve Corps Training

Left to right: Alex Fevry PharmD'17, Soonyip Alec Huang PharmD'17, Khiem Huynh PharmD'17, and Ami Patel PharmD'17

A team of eight student-pharmacists from University of the Sciences joined more than 150 new volunteers with the Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps as they acted out a bioterrorist attack which required them to administer antibiotics to thousands of Philadelphians to help prevent the spread of a deadly bacterial infection.

This dramatic, but informational, training session was held at USciences on Saturday, Nov. 8, for these credentialed volunteers – who are typically seen providing medical care and first aid after major storms, or at large city events such as the Philadelphia Marathon.

“Bringing together such a diverse group of local healthcare professionals and students was a positive experience which reinforced USciences’ mission of promoting integrated learning and professionalism,” said Steven Sheaffer, PharmD, associate professor of clinical pharmacy.  

Although Dr. Sheaffer has been a member of the Medical Reserve Corps since 2007, he said regularly attends training sessions to keep up to speed with relief efforts and build stronger relationships with healthcare professionals across the Philadelphia region.

“I hope that more of our students across all disciplines consider attending future training programs and join the Medical Reserve Corps,” he said.

Aside from USciences pharmacy students and faculty, other volunteers at the training session included medical and doctoral students from University of Pennsylvania, nurses, as well as students and faculty from other local universities.

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the mailing of anthrax-tainted letters to news media and U.S. senators painfully illustrated the need for more organized use of medical volunteers.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health launched the city’s unit in 2005, after Congress allocated money to establish the Medical Reserve Corps program office in the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office. Philadelphia’s chapter now boasts more than 1,800 volunteers who offer their medical, pharmaceutical, behavioral health, and other skills.

“I wanted to volunteer for the medical corps to use my pharmacy education in way that allows me to give back to the community,” said Alex Fevry PharmD’17.

Media coverage:


USciences Prez, Students and Faculty Attended Life Sciences Future in Philly

PABioLSF14_-138University of the Sciences President Dr. Helen-Giles Gee, as well as students and faculty from USciences, joined hundreds of life sciences leaders and innovators during the Life Sciences Future Conference on Oct. 13-14 in Philadelphia.

Life Sciences Future was a two-day event designed by Pennsylvania Bio to reflect the rapidly-evolving landscape in healthcare - which includes biopharma, medical device and diagnostics, healthcare IT, contract research organizations, medical research institutions, and the investment community.

The first day of the event kicked off with Life Sciences Future Symposium: Partnerships in Science, which was designed for an exclusive audience of academic researchers, such as USciences students and faculty, to explore best practices for engaging business development representatives at large companies as well as the next steps in developing their technologies. The second day of the conference was jam-packed with speakers, topics and features all related to advancing science and healthcare industries.

Dr. Giles-Gee and students had the opportunity to meet and speak with Michael Sofia, inventor of Sofosbuvir – known by the brand name Sovaldi, a hepatitis C therapy drug approved by the FDA last December.

“The sessions were outstanding and much appreciated by the faculty and students who attended," Dr. Giles-Gee.


VIDEO: Mayes College Alumnus Shares Experiences in Ireland

Video by Sport Changes Life Foundation

Alumnus Patrick Connaghan PhB'14 is currently continuing his education and basketball career in Carlow, Ireland through the Sport Changes Life Foundation's Victory Scholarship program. He is pursing his Masters in Business at the Carlow Institute of Technology, and is on track to finish his degree this spring.

You can follow Patrick's journey in Ireland by following him at @Connaman on Twitter, or by reading his Sport Changes Life blog.

Continue readingRecent Grad Gives Back to the Game of Basketball, Gains Free Education


Community Pharmacy Medication Adherence

Medication adherence is a growing concern for health care providers. For this reason many community pharmacies are focusing on was to increase medication adherence rates. This can be done in various ways ranging in diverse settings.

            Medication therapy management (MTM) are services provided by pharmacists to increase therapeutic outcomes. There are approximately 1.5 billion preventable adverse effects that cause $177 billion in injury and death. A major target for MTM occurs in community pharmacies. The Pennsylvania Project studied 107 Rite Aid pharmacies that trained pharmacist to perform interventions including asking questions about medication adherence and 111 control pharmacies that did not perform these interventions.  The endpoints of this study showed an increase in medication adherence (PDC >80%) in the intervention group over the control group.  There was a significant increase in adherence of 3.1% for beta-blockers and 4.8% of for anti-diabetic drugs.

            Patient counseling is a great way for community pharmacists to change medication adherence rates. In an internal study, Walgreens Pharmacy is creating a way to identify patients that may need a little more help with medication adherence by examining  poor past medication adherence rates or new medications prescribed. In a study across 76 Walgreens, these interventions showed an increase in medication possession ratio.

            Chronic medications can be difficult to control of especially if a patient is taking multiple medications. An AHRQ tool used in community pharmacies called refill reminders, can help patients pick up their medications on time.  Using this script as part of an automated reminder system, can help prompt patients to refill their prescriptions or pick up their medication.

            While at work, I have come across these methods to increase medication adherence in the community setting. It is important as pharmacist to intervene early by educating and counseling the patient, so adherence rates start off high. These methods have proven extremely beneficial in my place of work. For example, automatic courtesy refills allow all patients on maintenance medications to be reminded to pick up their medication, so they do not miss doses. These are just some examples of methods being implemented in community pharmacies to help pharmacists identify these patients and improve medication adherence.

Urvi Patel, PharmD ‘16


Founder of 'We Feed the Homeless Philly' Speaks to Pharmacy Students

HomelessPrior to the end of the 2013-14 school year at University of the Sciences, pharmacy students enrolled in the elective course, "Pharmacist Role in Promoting Lifestyle Changes to Maintain Cardiovascular Health" had the opportunity to host the founder of a local volunteer organization, “We Feed the Homeless Philly.”

Grace Earl PharmD, BCPS, assistant professor of clinical pharmacy, said this particular course aimed to help students develop skills and materials to create a community health promotion event. That's why it seemed fitting for students to engage with Craig Stroman, executive director and founder of the Philadelphia-based homeless organization.

"Craig spoke about the needs of the homeless in Philadelphia, and we learned that between 750 to 1,200 children spend the night in a Philadelphia shelter," said Dr. Earl. "Through recent, informal surveys, Craig found that more than 95 percent of the local homeless did not complete high school."

Contrary to the common beliefs among society, Stroman stressed that “drugs” and “drug abuse” are not the sole causes of homelessness. He shared several heartfelt stories with the class, including how a widower lost everything he had because he was fully dependent on his late wife, and failed to pay his mortgage or bills after she died.  In another case, Stroman said a homeless family was squatting in a vacant house after the father lost his job. After driving this family to a shelter on a Saturday, Stroman learned that Philadelphia shelters only accept "new" families on Monday through Friday, through an intake process.

"As healthcare professionals, we learned that the homeless community's greatest need is food and shelter," said Dr. Earl. "Healthcare may not be the number one priority in their daily life, and that is important for us to understand in our professions."

Stroman can be seen offering meals to homeless individuals at Love Park and other areas in the city on Saturdays and Tuesdays, and he has been successful in increasing support from 40 to 700 volunteers.  He also works as a housing investigator for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Students in the class joined members of the University's Department of Pharmacy Practice and Administration to host a food donation drive to benefit We Feed the Homeless Philly.  For more information regarding Stroman's organization, as well as volunteer opportunities, visit wefeedthehomelessphilly.org.


Taking Advantage of Adherence Programs

A simple internet search will provide both patients and health care providers with a multitude of current adherence programs/services. Both the availability of programs and participation from the patients will allow for improvement of overall medication adherence. Multiple adherence programs and the future of medication adherence will be discussed to gain a better understanding of the benefits for increasing adherence.

Adherence Programs:  Medication adherence can improve health, and reduce costs. Therefore, it is important that there are many adherence programs available for the public to take advantage of; either sponsored by a health care company, pharmacy, hospital or ambulatory care clinics. Some of the larger companies that provide adherence services include Lash Group, Optum and Humana. These companies provide supplemental services to both health care providers and patients such as personal consultation with a pharmacist or nurse, pamphlets about different disease states and personal medication reminders. These services are available to the public and it may be beneficial for patients to take advantage of such opportunity.

Pharmacist’s role: One of the easier ways to improve medication adherence is by developing a relationship between patients and their pharmacists. Pharmacists can keep track of patients’ current medication lists, refill schedules, disease states, and work to resolve any barriers that patients may have. Major drug chains such as CVS Caremark pharmacy makes an effort to understand the barriers that are preventing patients from taking their medications. In order to resolve issues CVS uses their pharmacists on the frontline to work one on one with patients to answer questions and improve adherence.

Prospect for Medication Adherence: After careful consideration of past methods and strategic research, the consultant group Frost & Sullivan provides insight on what direction medication adherence programs should be moving. Current methods of improving medication adherence include refill reminders, brochures, blister cards and telephoning. Future strategies hope to avoid general approach and instead focus on each patient’s specific needs or barriers to improve medication adherence. One of the strategies includes pharmaceutical companies to initiate a loyalty card program where patients are offered a financial discount at every fill.  While there may be some benefit to this, one does need to wonder if this strategy will be counter-productive to the pharmacist-patient or physician-patient relationship.  Moving forward technology will also play a key factor in improving adherence as discussed by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). With an increase use of Electronic Health Records (EHR) facilities should be able to measure level of medication adherence, evaluate economic impact, increase electronic prescribing, improve drug formulary, and initiate medication reconciliation in all healthcare facilities. Other technology adjustments such as video conferencing, smartphone applications, and electronic availability of medication list for both patients and providers will help advance medication adherence strategies.

A variety of adherence programs are available for all patients to participate in which will then help increase health outcomes. Health care systems and providers are implementing new strategies to reach the common goal of improving medication adherence. Strategies such as focusing on specific patient factors, cost incentives and availability of electronic information will help increase adherence. Taking advantage of multiple adherence programs and new strategies will benefit the future of healthcare.

Sheenu Joseph, PharmD '15


VIDEO: 6abc Highlights Students, Faculty at USciences Research Day

6abc showcased the diversity and growth of research pursuits at University of the Sciences during its 12th Annual Research Day and 27th Annual John C. Krantz, Jr., Distinguished Lecture on Thursday, April 10. Research Day recognizes and highlights the research efforts of faculty, as well as undergraduate and graduate students, to encourage and promote communication and collaboration among researchers.
USciences distinguishes itself by offering undergraduate students the opportunity to conduct research early in their academic careers. The diverse research activity that was on display spanned several aspects of the University’s scholarly pursuits, including:
  • Determining occupational therapists’ role in working with pediatric cancer patients
  • Discovering the personality traits that cause adolescents to kill
  • Using yoga to improve quality of life for patients with anorexia nervosa
  • Identifying predictors of successful post-secondary transitions for autistic students


Occupational Therapy Students and Faculty Present at National Conference

USciences made an impact at this year's national occupational therapy conference.

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) organized the largest group of occupational therapists and occupational therapy students in the world. USciences' Occupational Therapy Department was strongly represented. Students and faculty members were honored with multiple presentations and awards this year. Below is a list of these awards and presentations.

Congratulations to all those that represented USciences and the profession of occupational therapy so strongly. 

Dr. Rondalyn Whitney, PhD, OT/L, FAOTA - Dr. Whitney was honored as a Fellow of AOTA. She also presented, "Is Reality Broken? Introducing the First High-Quality Online Game to Improve Social Participation." She also presented an educational session on, "Emotional Disclosure Through Journal Writing: Outcomes of Online Intervention." Dr. Whitney presented another educational session titled, "What You Need to Know to Get Published! An Insider's Look at Strategies for Success." 

Dr. Colleen Maher, OTD, CHT, OTR/L presented a session led, "Evaluation of a One-Week Occupation-Based Program on the Health and Participation of Women With Cancer."

Dr. Varleisha Gibbs, OTD, OTR/L and Elizabeth Higgins presented on, "The Relation of Cultural Behavioral Norms and Parenting Styles to Age of Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders." 

Dr. Kimberly Gargin, OTD, OTR/L presented on, "Generational Differences: Do they Impact Fieldwork?." 

Dr. Ruth Schemm, EdD, OTR/L, FAOTA presented a session titled, "Our Time Now?: Function Becomes Central to Implementing the Accountable Care Act (ACA)." 

Danielle Centi, OTS (P4) - Danielle received an internship with the Developmental Disabilities Special Interest Section. 

Alyssa Reiter, OTS (P4), Paula Ortiz and Christima Smith presented on, "Healthy Living for Children and Family: Occupational Therapy's Presence in the Community." 

Brandy Brouse and Danielle Cooney presented a poster titled, "Prevention and Health Care Access: Relationship Between Engaging in Healthy Behaviors and Health Insurance." 

Carolyn Edwards, OTS (P3) presented on "Best Practice for Fall Prevention in Long-Term Care."

Daniel Fichter, OTS (P3) presented a literature review titled, "Are Apps for Adults in Rehabilitation Settings Evidence-Based?." 

Erin Livingston presented a poster titled, "A Systematic Review of Social Stories: Evidence and Application in Community Settings." 

Palak Sutaria, OTS (P3) presented a literature review on, "Combined Cognitive-Motor Fall Prevention Interventions."

Kristin Anderson, Beth Kelly, Patricia Murphy and Ashley Paolino presented on "Creating Opportunities for Social-Emotional and Physical Play."


All Grown Up - Medication Adherence in Adults

As individuals grow older, the more likely they are to depend on medications to manage a disease state or to even extend their life. Therefore, in order for a medication regimen to be successful in treating a patient, it is important to stress the value of medication adherence. The adult population (ages 19-64) takes many medications on a regular basis, either for acute or chronic diseases. To improve adherence in adults, barriers such as cost, health literacy, and pill burden should be addressed.

Barriers: Prescription medication can be very expensive and therefore may play a role in adult patients’ adherence levels, even if they are not in good health. Cost influence on the patient can be verified by questions such as whether patients got their prescriptions filled, used herbal medications rather than prescription medications, or even stretched out the time till next refill. During a study, it was seen that when there is a cost barrier to medication adherence, adults tend to have a low income status, no drug coverage, or have multiple disease states. Therefore, different programs can be used to assist patients in decreasing medication expenses and thus improve adherence.

Besides cost, health literacy is also a barrier that prevents adults from reaching optimal medication adherence. Most adults will have to manage certain illnesses for the rest of their lives and thus it is important for them to have the necessary disease knowledge. Presentation about the medication include the purpose, mechanism of action, and other drug benefits which may lead patients to have increased medication adherence because they are expecting better health outcomes.

Additionally, many adults have multiple diseases to manage, which results in difficulty to many medications rather than just one. It is during this age that adults are newly diagnosed with chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, and hypertension. Therefore issues such as pill burden can be problematic when there are comorbidities involved. Patients may feel overwhelmed if they have to take multiple medications for diabetes, then asthma and also manage another serious condition of HIV. Options of combination medication therapy should be considered to decrease pill burden.

Asthma: The disease of asthma requires abundant counseling in order for patients to receive optimal therapy and avoid complications. With many inhaler options for both rescue and maintenance therapy in avoiding asthma exacerbations, it can become real confusing for patients to manage. When asthma is not appropriately managed it can lead to increased hospital visits and unwanted health expenses. Recent studies have concluded that patients with increased knowledge, attitude and self-efficacy in managing asthma can improve adherence. This is a disease state that, if patients understand signs and symptoms of asthma and use personal skills in managing the complications, it will result in a better quality of life. It is important to review both disease state and therapy schedule with adult patients every time they receive an inhaler, so patients can be in charge of their own health.

Pharmacists are constantly dispensing medications to adults and thus they have the perfect opportunity to help adults overcome barriers such as cost, health literacy and pill burden. Adulthood is a time in life where patients have to take care of their own health, income, and knowledge. Although adults are independent, pharmacists can step in to provide cost effective solutions and information about managing chronic illnesses such as inhaler techniques for managing asthma exacerbations. Pharmacists can use their knowledge about medications, cost coverage and managing disease states, in order to help adults improve medication adherence.

Sheenu Joseph, PharmD '15

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