Health center begins program to address patients’ unique medical needs

Sarian Bangura, an ambulatory care pharmacist with Northeast Valley Health Corporation, smiles as she poses for a portrait at the Canyon Country clinic on Monday, April 17, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Patients at the Northeast Valley Health Corporation (NEVHC) now have a chance to regularly check-in with pharmacists and adjust their medication needs, thanks to the health care group’s new Ambulatory Care Pharmacists.

The community health center’s Ambulatory Care Pharmacists include one full-time and one part-time pharmacist who work directly with patients with acute hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol to oversee their medical care and help them improve their health issues.

“It’s a very progressive health care system because pharmacists are the most underused professionals in the health field,” said Dr. Nader Tossoun, NEVHC’s full-time Ambulatory Care Pharmacist who works at centers in San Fernando, Sun Valley, Pacoima and Van Nuys.  “If you have disease that is treated by a medication then who better than a pharmacist to see you… We are the experts in knowing which medication works best for each patient and are able to cater to each patient.”

The pharmacists see patients whose health conditions are mainly controlled through medication.  Through the program, pharmacists are able to see patients every two to three weeks instead of every three months as a regular provider would.

They also can adjust their medication and check-in with patients after their primary care visits.

Dr. Nader Tossoun, an ambulatory care pharmacist with Northeast Valley Health Corporation, speaks with a patient at one of NEVHC’s Health Centers. Photo courtesy of Michael Suorsa/NEVHC

“We are able to see patients every two to three weeks and titrate [adjust] their medication and help them achieve their health goals sooner,” Tossoun said.  “It also frees up the provider to see more patients and allows the pharmacists to see the patients that require constant visits.”

Dr. Sarian Bangura, NEVHC’s part-time pharmacist who works at the Santa Clarita Health Center, Valencia Health Center and Transitions To Wellness homeless clinic location, said the program allows pharmacists to improve access to care for patients.

“I think we can make a difference on overall quality care,” Bangura said.  “We’re really moving from a system that’s a fee for service to more quality measures.  Having a pharmacist on the team can help improve overall health outcomes and hopefully help save costs.”

Overall, Bangura and Tossoun see seven to eight patients per day at various NEVHC health centers.

At the Santa Clarita Health Center Bangura focuses on patients with hypertension and at the Valencia Health Center she focuses on patients with diabetes.

“Pharmacists are at a great position clinically to treat chronic conditions such as diabetes and we’re hoping that, with more providers on hand and seeing patients more frequently, we can help get that controlled much quicker,” Bangura said.

Tossoun said that the program has continued to grow since its start in January and implementation in Santa Clarita two weeks ago.  Patient response to the program has been positive thus far.

“The response we’ve gotten from a majority of our patients is that they really enjoy the program,” he said.  “You can step in a pharmacy at any time and get your health questions asked.”

Now, the Ambulatory Care Pharmacists’ focus is determining how many patients they can fit into their schedules and increasing the effectiveness of their care at health centers across Southern California.

“It’s been proven over and over again that clinical pharmacists improve quality measures especially now with the quality of care you give each patient,” Tossoun said.  “I definitely see it increasing and improving and growing in the future.”

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