HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Just two years ago, Hill Air Force Base’s pharmacy had a problem.
Long wait times and too few direct pharmacist-to-patient interactions had many of Northern Utah’s 70,000-plus military health system beneficiaries filling their prescriptions at outlets other than Hill.
But now — thanks to a new satellite pharmacy and an Air Force pilot program that embeds pharmacists with the base’s primary care teams — military personnel, retirees and their dependents who live near Hill will have an easier time getting their medication on base.
Maj. David Jarnot, the commander of Hill’s 75th Medical Group pharmacy, said the base had 84 direct patient-to-pharmacist interactions in 2012. When the calendar runs out this year, Jarnot said the pharmacy will have more than 9,600 of those interactions in 2015.
That seemingly astronomical jump makes more sense when Jarnot explains how it happened.
When the major first came to Hill in 2012, the base’s pharmacy had just one clinical
service, which focused on blood-thinning medications.
"But then we saw there was a need for (clinical services) like high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma," he said.
In about three years, the number of clinical services the pharmacy offers has grown to 15, ranging from chronic disease management, short-term treatment for sudden illnesses and injuries and medication therapy management.
Hill is also the first military base to put pharmacists directly into the base’s primary care teams.
"You had the doctors and nurses and that primary care team," Jarnot said. "Well, now the pharmacists are on that team. So, we help the provider teams manage the patients."
Jarnot is conducting an 18-month study that measures the medical outcomes of patients seen by the embedded pharmacists, hoping to provide evidence that the system not only expedites the medication process, but provides for improved patient care as well. This month, the Air Force will introduce similar pilot programs at 11 other sites.
"Hopefully, what we’ve done here becomes the standard in the Air Force," Jarnot said.
Jarnot said the base’s new satellite pharmacy, which opened in July 2014, has also allowed the pharmacy to see more patients.
With new equipment like a prescription-filling robot, the satellite pharmacy doubled the base’s prescription processing capability to more than 600,000 prescriptions each year.
Jarnot said the new efficiency at the base pharmacy is important to the entire Top of Utah community, not just active members of the Air Force.
All members of Department of Defense Military Health System, commonly known as Tricare, are able to use base medical facilities, including the pharmacy. Jarnot said there are more than 70,000 Tricare beneficiaries living within a 60-mile radius of the base.
Tricare patients can get prescriptions filled at nearby military installations, through the mail or at retail networks like Rite Aid or Walgreens.
"Those are their only three options, so it’s important they’re able to get them here in a timely and reasonable manner," he said. "The same prescriptions in the retail network are a lot more expensive. We want people to save money and to come see us."