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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

URI College of Pharmacy’s managed care facility
teaches students business aspect of pharmacy

KINGSTON, R.I. -- Mar. 5, 2002 -- The University of Rhode Island’s College of Pharmacy is operating a center to assist managed care organizations in evaluating patient needs and prescription use.
Professor Paul Larrat

The college’s Healthcare Utilization Management Center was established by College of Pharmacy Professors Paul Larrat, Jerry Brehany and Stephen Kogut in the fall of 2000.

"This program grew out of our experiences in real managed care companies," said Paul Larrat, professor of pharmacoepidemiology and the center’s director. "We saw the need for students to experience the business part of pharmacy."

The center partners with one managed care organization, one Internet health information company and the Rhode Island Departments of Administration and Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals. These organizations serve more than 300,000 patients.

Larrat acknowledges that "when done poorly, ‘managed care’ can be detrimental to the health of individuals enrolled in a health care plan."

Larrat, his colleagues and their students want to eliminate that problem by providing the fundamental skills for developing managed care pharmacy programs, improving quality of health care and improving access to proper cost-effective treatments.

"Since 87% of covered individuals are enrolled in some type of ‘managed care’, this goal has taken on greater significance," said Larrat.

For seven and a half weeks, the students work on computer terminals located at the center in Fogarty Hall to assist managed care companies in ensuring the best medical treatment at an affordable price. The students provide the companies with consulting services, clinical guidelines and support, advice on designing patient/ organization prescription programs and the utilization of drugs.

"With this program, the students are encouraged to learn the management part of the pharmacy program," said Visiting Assistant Professor Kogut. "It goes beyond the undergraduate curriculum by requiring them to write treatment guidelines and recommendations regarding policies and related results."

The students examine the clients’ medical expenses and health care utilization, including doctor and hospital visits, as well as medication costs.

"In some cases, if diseases are treated properly, the cost of treatment is significantly less expensive. We find that improper treatment often leads to higher human and medical costs. The students work at educating prescribers to follow widely-accepted treatment guidelines so that health care quality improves. The cost is not only significantly less expensive for the patient but also for the managed care organization," said Larrat.

Brehany developed the undergraduate program at the center. He identifies the projects for the managed care corporations and then assigns students their roles. During the semester, Brehany takes students to Keystone-Mercy Health Plan in Philadelphia for a week to work side by side with health care professionals.

"The most important aspect of their visit is gaining exposure to a unique employment setting for pharmacists and an understanding of the day to day issues that confront professionals in this type of environment," said Larrat.

At the end of the semester, the students are certified in managed care through the Academy for Health Care Management.

"Since the program started we’ve had five or six students choose a career in managed care," Larrat said. "For example, they’ve gone on to work for Merck-Medco, Scrip Solutions and Abbott Laboratories."

The graduate program at the center involves students in higher levels of research by using large amounts of drug use data to recommend the best treatments.

"We keep evolving as new projects come our way. For example, we enhanced our information processing capabilities when a project came along that required analysis of large data sets. I think we will evolve further as more partnerships are established," said Larrat. "My goal is to have a full time coordinator/ project manager at the center. We are close to needing that person now. We want to stay ahead of the curve."

For Information: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862, Sarah Emmett, 401-874-2116

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