College of Pharmacy adapts to COVID-19 while continuing care at practice sites


April 24, 2020

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The emergence of the coronavirus pandemic has put a spotlight on the pharmacists and other health care workers fighting to stave off the spread of infection and treat patients. Community pharmacies, hospitals and clinics have adapted their practices to conform to social distancing restrictions and take proper precautions in order to keep treating patients safely. For The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy faculty, staff members and residents involved in pharmacy practice, the coronavirus has presented unprecedented challenges – and invaluable educational opportunities.    

Bella Mehta, PharmD, FAPhA, clinical professor in the Division of Pharmacy Practice and Science and the director of practice advancement and professional development, said that COP residents are offering a full range of care in community-based partner sites – from HIV/AIDS care at Equitas Health to community-based models of care at Uptown Pharmacy, Charitable Pharmacy and Kroger.

“In speaking with the residency program directors and hearing back from some of the residents, they are really seeing a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime level of need at their practice sites,” Dr. Mehta said. “These community-based providers are seeing rapidly changing regulations and this has resulted in giving our students and residents an opportunity to experience how practices and pharmacists are adapting and managing through a public health crisis.”

Knowing no boundaries, the coronavirus has impacted rural areas where health care resources tend to be more limited. Rebecca Lahrman, PharmD, MS, clinical assistant professor in the Division of Pharmacy Practice and Science, teaches on-site at a practice partnership at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine Community Health Programs (OUHCOM/CHP) in Athens, Ohio. The collaborative provides free or reduced primary health care to children and adults living in southeast Ohio.

Dr. Lahrman also provides care at Shrivers Compounding Pharmacy in Athens. She has found that their patients need help understanding the information around COVID-19, including how to follow policies, the best care for themselves and others, and how to access care.

“There has been a lot of information going around and it is very overwhelming to read, so many have taken comfort in calling us or stopping by to ask their questions,” Dr. Lahrman said. “Many patients have also assumed their primary care doctors are no longer providing care, so we spend time clarifying that some went to telehealth while others just have new policies for how to enter the building and receive care.”

The practice has taken precautionary measures such as moving to drive-thru and delivery only, and they offer delivery of over-the-counter items to help serve their patients. “We take orders over the phone and collect the items so when they drive through, they can approve the items quickly,” Dr. Lahrman said.

Dr. Lahrman believes all pharmacies are rising to the occasion and are doing their best to serve their patients as much as possible. “We recognize that we are one of a few pharmacies in the county and have been trying to order as many medications and supplies as we can knowing patients already have limited access to items in our county,” she said. “We also know our providers really well and continue to work with them to help meet the needs of our patients as best we can.”

Throughout central Ohio and across the spectrum of pharmacy practice, faculty practitioners from the college’s Division of Pharmacy Practice and Science have also shifted their method of delivery for direct patient care, with many clinics and sites shifting to telehealth and remote services.

“Some faculty have shifted responsibilities in their day-to-day practices in order to accommodate the needs of the sites, and others have volunteered to help at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center should a need arise due to a surge in cases and shortage of providers,” Dr. Mehta said.

Examples of faculty and staff members who have adapted to the changed landscape that the coronavirus has created include:

  • Brianne Porter, PharmD, MS, clinical assistant professor, has worked with Powell Pharmacy to completely alter their workflow to curbside pick-up and delivery.
  • Sarah Adkins, PharmD, BCACP, clinical pharmacist, leads the practice partnership on-site at OUHCOM/CHP, where Dr. Lahrman teaches. She has helped the program adapt to the new needs in rural southeast Ohio.
  • The pharmacy team in the Division of Pharmacy Practice and Science is providing care through telemedicine at the Wexner Medical Center’s General Internal Medicine department. This team includes faculty and post-graduate trainees: Laura Hall, PharmD, BCPS, assistant professor; Stuart Beatty, PharmD, BCPS, clinical associate professor; David Matthews, PharmD, BCACP, assistant professor of pharmacy practice; and E. Michael Murphy, PharmD, pharmacy advancement fellow.
  • Cari Brackett, PharmD, BCPS, clinical associate professor, is providing remote services for Mount Carmel Health System.
  • Vinita Pai, PharmD, clinical associate professor, and Anna Haas-Gehres, PharmD, BCACP, assistant professor of pharmacy practice, are providing services through Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Dr. Pai’s group has been working in cohorts to remotely manage hematology/oncology patients. Dr. Haas-Gehres is providing hands-on care in the outpatient pharmacy.
  • Alexa Valentino, PharmD, clinical assistant professor, is providing care remotely through PrimaryOne Health, a community health center.
  • Cynthia Carnes, PharmD, PhD, senior associate dean for research, and Maria Pruchnicki, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS, BCACP, CLS, clinical associate professor, are each providing telehealth/remote services for the Wexner Medical Center’s Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital.
  • With COSI is closed, Cynthia Canan, PhD, assistant director of the Generation Rx Laboratory, is moving interactive experiences online so families can continue to learn about medication science and safe use of medicines.

As the world continues to cope with the existence of COVID-19, COP faculty, staff and residents in practice will continue their tireless work providing patient-centered care in an environment that is safe for patients and providers alike. The new challenges that the coronavirus presents demand discipline and ingenuity – both of which are at the core of the College of Pharmacy’s mission.