Overview: Mary Moody joins us from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Pharmacy to discuss the passing of an 2019 act providing AD to Medicaid prescribers in Illinois state, and how AD programs with similar legislative aspirations can follow in UIC's footsteps in securing support and funding for their work.
Written by: Winnie Ho, Program Coordinator
Tags: CME, COVID-19, Health Policy, Opioid Safety, Program Management
Winnie: We’re very excited to have the opportunity to discuss with you regarding the efforts behind the passing of legislation in Illinois that helped cement the provision of AD services to Medicaid prescribers across the state! But before we get deeper into that, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and your AD-related work?
Mary: I’m an Associate Dean for Professional and Governmental Affairs at the UIC College of Pharmacy, in addition to a Clinical Associate Professor. I started in Drug Information and for years, was managing our Drug Information Center which supports healthcare professionals around the country.
We’ve been working with the state for some time now, supporting the Medicaid prescriber population with the prior approval process. Within that timeframe, we started to look into AD to get a better understanding of how we could implement this for our providers.
W: That’s a background that certainly lends itself to promoting AD. Can you walk us through what this legislative act details?
M: The bill outlines the development of a program to provide AD to Medicaid prescribing physicians. The bill also includes two specific components – one of which was an agreement to provide free CME which is available on our website, and the second of which was establishing a toll-free drug information phone number and e-mail for providers to reach out to us after their visit. We have trained drug information specialists who can answer any questions they have about medications.
W: It’s important that this act received approval and support from the Illinois General Assembly. Can you talk to us about how this bill came to the floor and how it came to pass?
M: One of our legislators – Representative Theresa Mah – had attended the 2018 National Conference of State Legislators, which is an organization that acts as a percolator for new ideas about new laws. There, she learned about AD as there have been similar legislative acts established in other states, such as New York. She became really interested in bringing something similar to Illinois.
In my role with Professional and Governmental Affairs, my responsibility is to keep track of proposed bills that are in the hopper, and when I saw that this bill was coming up, I was like wait, this is perfect! I set up a meeting with the representative to describe the vision and plans we had at UIC College of Pharmacy.
At this point, UIC had completed a pilot with AMITA Health to look at the benefits of AD in opioid prescribing through a CDC grant. Because of this prior experience, we were recommended to the state as a partner for this initiative.
Eventually, Dr. Todd Lee and I were invited to present in front of the state House and Senate committees where we introduced AD and answered any questions the representatives had. It was ultimately passed through House and Senate unanimously. I felt pretty great about that.
W: I’m glad to hear that the legislators really prioritized this. For the world of AD, this is a major win, especially as other AD programs may be interested in replicating your success on the legislative floor.
M: The legislative route is incredibly useful because it helps give me a higher level of comfort knowing that my budgeting for our AD work is likely to come on an annual basis.
W: I’m curious about how you were able to introduce AD to a brand new audience and persuade all of them that this work was something they ought to prioritize.
M: Since there have been several places that have established the legislation including New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Washington D.C, we were able to establish that there was precedent and could show them previous models. We were able to demonstrate how this would benefit Illinois, especially in reaching our targets of improving prescribing, reducing emergency room visits, and reducing hospitalizations for our chronically ill.
We discussed how there were a large number of individuals in our state who were Medicaid recipients that suffer from multiple chronic conditions, and that it was difficult for our prescribers to stay up to date with so much information coming at them. We wanted to provide the best evidence-based, non-biased information.
W: Your program kicked-off your work by focusing on the opioid overdose crisis. How was this chosen as a starting point?
M: It’s a public health crisis that is an absolute priority in Illinois. UIC has been working on research in academic detailing and the impact on opioid prescribing. We could match our pitch for AD to this current issue, it helped our presentation to the committees a lot.
W: When it comes to legislation, sometimes it can require many things to align. In this case, we’re trying to align healthcare interests, research, and the policy decision-making process. There’s always a lot of competing interests and AD is certainly not the only tool in the toolkit towards improving patient outcomes.
M: For anyone looking to intertwine AD with their state legislative process, you need to understand what your state’s priorities are. You can start by looking at state plans and guidelines for major health issues, just like the opioid crisis. No one is against making these health issues better for everyone, but you may need to do more research to understand where your program fits in and more importantly, who the movers and shakers in your governance are.
W: Right, these connections are critical to building support.
M: One of the things that can be frustrating is not knowing where to start. You can start by talking with local universities, your state and local public health officials. There’s state pharmacy and physician organizations who may have more experience with the legislative process. Look at where your opportunities to ask for help are. Ask people for their input. You don’t have to do this all on your own.
W: Is there anything else that’s useful to prepare before choosing the legislative route?
M: Having done a pilot makes a huge difference, because it shows that it can work in some part of your state. It shows that you know what might work and what won’t work. It can be hard to get a pilot done without a lot of funding, but sometimes you’ve got to use a little sweat equity, bite the bullet, and just do it.
It doesn’t have to be large. You can work with a local health department to identify physicians that they have good relationships with already, or a county medical society. Having data ready is really important.
W: All of this is valuable insight, thank you Mary! Although COVID-19 has interrupted some of these AD plans, what is your hope for what passing this legislation will mean for AD in Illinois?
M: Our current legislation specifically mentions supporting Medicaid providers. The goal is to expand it to all prescribers across Illinois. COVID-19 has also taught us a lot, and changed a lot of opinions on telehealth. I think as people become more comfortable with this platform, it will change how we approach AD.
We’re also looking at expanding beyond physician prescribers to include Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants. It’s harder to get access to them. It’s an uphill battle to get names and contact information, and to know who the right providers are. But it’s important because NPs and PAs account for a large portion of prescribers for this patient population.
W: I think we’ll definitely see a ripple effect, and hopefully see AD take hold more broadly.
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Mary Lynn Moody BSPharm, is the Associate Dean for Professional and Governmental Affairs and a Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) College of Pharmacy. Ms. Moody graduated from the University of Illinois Chicago and completed a PGY1 Residency at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Ms. Moody’s clinical practice was in Drug Information at UIC. She is also currently the Director of Continuing Education at the College. In January, 2020 Mary was involved in launching the Academic Detailing Program at the college.
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