Alert VHAN Pharmacist Delivers Lifesaving Care to Blind Patient

Coordinated care provides multiple touchpoints to ensure that no symptom goes untreated, and no patient falls through the cracks. At Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network (VHAN), clinical pharmacists, social workers and nurse care navigators collaborate to deliver proactive, timely care to patients who need it most. 

For Population Health Clinical Pharmacist Lauren Cook, PharmD, BCPS, BCACP, VHAN’s cooperative approach means staying alert for complications that may arise unexpectedly with patients. Cook’s vigilance recently helped a 64-year-old blind patient avoid a potentially catastrophic health event. Working with the patient’s primary care provider, Cook was checking in regularly and monitoring the patient’s glucose levels when a series of red flags caught her attention.

“As I looked at his chart, I noticed things had changed significantly in a very negative way,” Cook says. “His kidney function had gotten exponentially worse, and he could have been in danger.”

The patient’s labs indicated acute renal failure, which Cook recognized as a potential, but rare, side effect of his blood sugar medication. With the patient suffering from nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and associated dehydration, Cook knew that his kidney function could continue to decline rapidly.

Though Cook diagnosed the problem, she was faced with the challenge of getting her blind patient the care he needed while his primary care provider was out of town. The patient’s caregiver and usual driver was unavailable, so he reached out to friends and church members for help. After a few phone calls, the patient found transportation to the emergency department. Cook had her car keys in hand, ready to drive him herself when a family friend stepped in to help.

Thankfully, the patient received exceptional treatment at the emergency department. By the time he left the hospital his kidney function had improved, even slightly surpassing his original baseline levels.

By removing the silos around individual areas of expertise, VHAN clinicians are able to streamline the patient experience—which, in this case of this blind patient and many others, ensured a positive outcome. “I see myself as an extension of the primary care team,” Cook says. “It’s my job to be an excellent communicator with the team and an advocate for the patients to make sure they get the care they need. The primary care provider is the quarterback. We’re the other players on the team making sure that we ultimately win the game by giving excellent patient care.”

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