Project IMPACT: Bringing CGM Access to a Pharmacy Near You
On July 20, 2023, the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Foundation and The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust announced Project IMPACT: CGM Access to improve access to continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) systems for people with diabetes.
This one-of-a-kind program will empower pharmacists to prescribe and support CGM access outside the traditional doctor’s office and in community pharmacies.
The pilot credentialing program will be launched in collaboration with 20 community pharmacies—a combination of chain and independent retailers—with a goal of 50 patients per site, along with five health plans in the United States. The ultimate goal is to improve access to quality diabetes care for patients. All pharmacies participating in phase one of the pilot program have already been enrolled.
In this program, the pharmacy work flow will integrate prescribing, dissemination and training patients with CGM devices. It will also ensure that pharmacists receive equitable payment for these services through health insurers.
Beyond Type 1 sat down with Robert E. Nichols, PharmD, BCPS, a clinical pharmacist based in Waterloo, Iowa, who helped develop and will participate in the pilot program.
Innovating diabetes care
Dr. Nichols says the program will work by innovating how pharmacists are able to take care of patients. Through their partnership with APhA and crucial feedback from patients with diabetes, they developed a model for integrating strategies for pharmacists to help patients overcome insurance barriers to CGM access, right at the pharmacy counter.
Dr. Nichols pointed out that there’s a lot of confusion over health insurance coverage for CGM, especially in state Medicaid programs, as coverage can vary by state.
Pharmacists are strategically equipped to help patients navigate this confusion, and through this pilot program will be able to tackle these barriers and get more CGMs into the hands of people who need them.
“Community pharmacists are well positioned, accessible, trusted by patients and can provide great care to people who may not otherwise receive care. This pilot [program] will produce critical data to support the inclusion of CGM services in the suite of patient care services offered in the community pharmacy setting to increase access to quality diabetes care,” said Benjamin Bluml, executive director and svp of research & innovation at the APhA Foundation.
Why CGMs are needed
CGMs are a standard of care for people living with type 1 diabetes and those with type 2 diabetes who use insulin. However, many people with diabetes lack access to CGM care and the providers who can prescribe—and train on how to use—CGMs.
Because roughly 90 percent of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy, this pilot seeks to fill the gap in care by utilizing pharmacists—who can offer patient care and CGM services—right there at the pharmacy counter.
Dr. Nichols said aspects of the pilot include training for pharmacists to initiate the use of CGMs and include the development of a pharmacist certification training program for CGM by APhA. Establishing a credentialing process that provides pharmacists with a reimbursement structure for CGM services is essential to this project.
Long term, the goal is scaling the project to a national model to continually provide CGM services in most pharmacies across the country.
As patients receive pharmacist-provided CGM care right at the pharmacy counter, the goal is that their overall health will improve, proving the concept and the value of receiving CGM services in pharmacies.
“Helmsley recognizes that pharmacists are trusted providers embedded within communities and are a crucial part of the diabetes care team,” said Laurel Koester, program officer at Helmsley. “Our partnership with The APhA Foundation gives us confidence that Project IMPACT: CGM Access will take us one step closer to making CGM services more accessible.”
Dr. Nichols is excited and hopeful about this project. He says, “This is the value that pharmacists can bring. I’m hoping that this project is a great success to help improve access to CGMs for people with diabetes.”
He continues, “Providing the opportunity to have access to something that my patients have been asking about for years, and is proven to work, is incredible. We’re finally giving them the keys to the kingdom of their own health. We’re not only helping them with their blood sugar management, but we’re improving their quality of life and making it just a little easier to live with diabetes. That’s what this is all about.”
Enrollment for the program will be ongoing through the fall of 2023, after which patients will receive monthly monitoring and management services throughout the rest of the year and into 2024.
If you currently have diabetes but do not have CGM access, talk to your doctor about getting a prescription and ask your pharmacist if they are participating in the pilot program. CGM costs and coverage will depend on what type of health insurance you carry and will vary by plan.