Story by Doug Nadvornick
Josh Neumiller and Lindy Swain are among the youngest faculty members at WSU Spokane. But their professional interests lie with people a generation or two ahead of them.
Both have appointments in the pharmacotherapy department within the College of Pharmacy. Neumiller is an assistant professor, Swain is an instructor. Both focus their current clinical work on older people.
Now they are business partners.
A year ago, Neumiller and Swain created a consulting company, Pharmacy Advocates. They work with older adults who need help sorting out medication issues.
“We see a lot of older patients who are taking a boatload of medications,” said Swain. “They often think they’re having drug interactions or are overmedicated.”
Swain and Neumiller say they’re often called by the adult children of their clients. They meet with the families and ask about medical histories and the drugs the older adults take. Then they analyze their clients’ cases and offer guidance for managing their prescriptions and over-the-counter remedies.
“We’re not just trying to fix one little problem with a medication,” said Neumiller. “We’re looking at it from more of the whole patient, how these medications interact with their other disease states. We look at any changes we can make to keep them functional as long as possible and in their home as long as we can.”
Finding clients through social media
Neumiller and Swain have developed their clientele using traditional methods. They receive referrals from geriatric case managers with whom they work. They have a contract with the Washington Department of Social and Health Services to see older adults referred by state social workers. They’ve received clients through word-of-mouth from local doctors and support groups organized around illnesses like Parkinson’s disease.
But they’re also using Facebook and a Web site, www.pharmacyadvocates.com, to reach out to potential customers. They maintain a blog on which they answer patient questions.
“I wouldn’t say that what we’re doing necessarily is new, but it’s new in that it’s a private business doing it,” said Swain. “There are a lot of pharmacists doing this as a side thing or who do it for free. But doing this as a business with the Web site and social media is innovative.”
Their patients pay a per-hour consultation fee. Insurance companies don’t yet cover their services. Swain and Neumiller hope that will eventually change.
But even if insurers don’t consider Pharmacy Advocates’ services valuable enough yet to include in their plans, Neumiller says the feedback from patients has been very positive.
“Particularly if they have a lot of cooks in the kitchen, as we like to say, a lot of people prescribing,” said Neumiller. “One physician may not know what the other is doing. And so we serve as a liaison, cleaning up the regimen, letting all of the players know what’s going on. It can make a huge difference in these individuals’ lives.”
Eventually, Swain says, she and/or Neumiller may consider making Pharmacy Advocates their full-time job. But for now, she says, they’ll fit the business in with their teaching and research duties within the College of Pharmacy.