A Prescription for Success

Pirfenidone. Dupilumab. Oxymetazoline. No, these aren’t answers to an organic chemistry final. They’re prescription drugs, and a handful of our B&F colleagues know them inside and out.

Since 2003, a small team has managed the U-M Prescription Drug Plan for the Benefits Office. While MedImpact handles transactions and claims, the U-M team runs the plan, covering 113,000 lives at an annual cost of over $120 million.

This unique arrangement allows the Benefits Office to draw on clinical expertise in the College of Pharmacy and Michigan Medicine to provide cutting-edge, cost-effective care. Managing our own plan has saved the university an estimated $50 million over the last 15 years, with member out-of-pocket costs that are about half the industry standard.

Now the drug plan team is opening up their successful model to provide real-world training to new pharmacists.

A residency program in B&F

In 2016, the Benefits Office began a pharmacy residency program, which works like a medical residency for pharmacists. Participants learn about all aspects of managing a large prescription drug plan, from drug coverage to vendor oversight to benefit design.

This spring, the team was thrilled to learn of the program’s formal accreditation from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. In addition to helping the program attract top talent, ASHP accreditation helps set up participants for longer-term success, as prospective employers seek out pharmacists with the specific skills and experiences an accredited program delivers.

“Building and gaining accreditation for this program has been one of my most gratifying accomplishments at the university,” says Cheryl Kaltz, program director. “We were especially proud to receive the highest level of recognition, which is awarded to less than half of new programs.”

Rigorous training in real-world issues

Over the course of their Benefits Office residency, new pharmacists hone diverse patient care, leadership and education skills as they learn to manage a large population in today’s complex pharmacy landscape. Close collaborations with the College of Pharmacy and Michigan Medicine provide opportunities for hands-on patient care and research experience.

“With the rising costs of healthcare, it’s more important than ever to develop the next generation of leaders in pharmaceutical policy and benefits administration,” says Stephen Lott, the plan’s specialty pharmacist. Residents come out of the program ready to practice in health plans, pharmacy benefit management organizations or physician groups.

Kaylyn Dougherty, the current PGY1 resident, will complete her residency in June and begin a PGY2 residency in Drug Information at the University of Wisconsin later this summer. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to grow and evolve professionally with the prescription drug plan residency program,” she says. “The guidance of talented, dedicated and caring preceptors has shaped my experience at the University of Michigan profoundly.”

A new resident will arrive in July.