Making Medication Convenient for Patients
UW Health infectious disease specialist Dennis Maki, MD, has been in practice long enough to witness the entire life cycle of home infusion therapy.
"I've had the good fortune of doing clinical medicine for almost 50 years and I've seen a lot of change in medicine in my life," he says.
One of the changes for the better has been the ability to treat long-term infections at home, which didn't even exist when Dr. Maki began practicing medicine.
"Twenty-five or 30 years ago some of my patients would be in hospitals for six to eight weeks at a time, which was a hardship for them and their families," Dr. Maki says. "It was very expensive and the patients were at greater risk for hospital-acquired infections."
Thanks to the advances of modern science and organizations like UW Health Care Direct, those lengthy hospital stays can now often be avoided.
"What we're now doing is treating many patients with complex infections that require high-dose, IV antibiotic therapy as outpatients," Dr. Maki says.
The medications needed to treat the infections to which Dr. Maki refers - abdominal absesses, fungal infections, infected prosthetic joints, to name a few - are too toxic to give orally. But Dr. Maki says UW Health Care Direct has established a successful process that relies on the expertise of the organization's qualified, experienced pharmacists and nurses to work with patients to safely and effectively deliver their medication regimen, which can include antibiotics, biologicals, catheter care, nutritional support, chemotherapy and more.
"Home antibiotic therapy takes a lot of preparation and superb professional support," Dr. Maki says. "You need a well-organized program and we've had the enormous good fortune to work with Care Direct. They make it happen. We couldn't do it without Care Direct."
The program includes both pharmacists and nurses who emphasize education and communication in their work with home infusion therapy patients. UW Health Care Direct pharmacist Katie Steffenhagen, PharmD, says making sure patients understand the mechanics of their medication therapy is one of the most important aspects of her job.
"We try to meet the needs of every patient, and that includes answering any questions they might have prior to beginning their home therapy," she says.
Steffenhagen received her pharmacy training in the University of Wisconsin school of pharmacy, and Dr. Maki says Care Direct's close association with UW is to the organization's advantage.
"The pharmacists are very experienced, and UW Hospital has a very sophisticated hospital pharmacy," Dr. Maki says. "It translates to a superior service."
Nurses play a key role in the process, as well, by teaching patients who self-administer their medications the correct technique and, when necessary, making patient house calls to ensure medication is delivered safely.
Questions can be answered and complications resolved via Care Direct's 24-hour, seven-day service operation. Dr. Maki is kept in contact with patients after hours and on weekends, if need be, and despite large patient volumes, the process is a smooth one.