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    Insulin pump training for R.Ph.s: Here's how to get it

     

    COMMUNITY PRACTICE

    Insulin pump training for R.Ph.s:
    Here's how to get it

    Pharmacists with expertise in diabetes are being recruited to learn how to teach patients to use an insulin pump. The catch is, they have to wear the pump themselves and check their own glucose levels to understand what patients experience.

    The insulin pump training project for about 15 pharmacists is being promoted by Diabetes in Control, a free weekly electronic newsletter circulated to 50,000 medical professionals involved in diabetes care. The newsletter has partnered with Animas Corp., which has agreed to train the pharmacists on its IR 1000 Insulin Pump. And TheraSense has agreed to give the participating pharmacists a FreeStyle Tracker blood glucose monitor and a Visor personal digital assistant (PDA) to chart their glucose readings.

    "We're sponsoring this insulin pump training free of charge because we saw an opportunity for pharmacists," said editor-in-chief David Joffe, R.Ph., CDE, who is also a certified trainer for several pump brands. "The pump companies have never had a big interest in pharmacists. There are probably 15 or 20 of us who are certified nationwide. I talk to the pump companies about how diabetes patients see the pharmacist more often than anyone else. And a lot of primary care physicians are starting to recommend pumps to their patients, but they have neither the time nor knowledge to take care of those patients."

    Pharmacists who are certified diabetes educators (CDEs) and who have a knack for teaching would be ideal candidates for pump training, said Audrey Finkelstein, Animas VP of marketing and clinical affairs. As front-line healthcare providers, pharmacists know their patients, their conditions, and their medications. With training, they would be a resource to help patients sort out whether they are candidates for insulin pump therapy, lay out the pros and cons, and help them learn to use the technology.

    "There are about 500 pharmacists who are CDEs," said Finkelstein. "Pharmacies are realizing that with 17 million people with diabetes, it behooves them to have a pharmacist become a CDE. I would have no problem in letting Dave Joffe manage my diabetes. He's great at it."

    A pharmacist candidate for insulin pump training has to be a CDE or a certified diabetes manager, or have extensive diabetes experience. Animas will provide the training and certify the pharmacist as a pump trainer through its program, which bears the stamp of approval from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

    Oh, and there's one other requirement. While they are in training, the pharmacists will have to wear the pump for up to 14 days—and check their blood glucose levels several times a day. The experience replicates the patient's, except the pharmacist's pump will be filled with saline.

    "One way to build knowledge is to wear the pump and learn all the bells and whistles, what it feels like to sleep with it, hearing the beep when it runs out of insulin," said Joffe. "People tell patients to check their glucose several times a day, but they themselves wouldn't stick themselves once. How do they know how it feels?"

    Wearing the pump and doing all those fingersticks does have its rewards. "One thing we want to ensure is that when pharmacists are certified, it will be in areas where income can be generated for them," said Joffe. "Once they complete this training and are certified, Animas will reimburse the pharmacists for pump starts—anywhere from $150 to $400, depending on the complexity of the case and how long they follow the patient. As soon as pharmacists have proven their value, we are counting on being able to get other companies interested or for Animas to continue to recruit pharmacists."

    In addition to being paid to train patients to use the insulin pumps, pharmacists might use their skills to get their foot in the door of diabetes education and get paid for it, Joffe said.

    "Pharmacists talk to the doctor's office five or six times a day but they never think to ask who does their diabetes education. We say to our 50,000 subscribers, 'This is what pharmacists can do. Make them part of your care team.' That's the message we're pushing," said Joffe.

    Qualified pharmacists interested in learning more about the pilot can e-mail: [email protected]. To subscribe to the newsletter, go to www.diabetesincontrol.com .

    Carol Ukens

     

    Carol Ukens. Insulin pump training for R.Ph.s: Here's how to get it. Drug Topics May 19, 2003;147:27.

    Carol Ukens
    Carol Ukens, a former editor at Drug Topics, is a freelance writer based in New Jersey