Long-term drug monitoring made easy

Get your patients taking long-term meds on a plan for rechecks.
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Sep 01, 2008

If you knew that a long-term medication monitoring program would bring in more than $70,000 a year at your practice, would you implement it? Dr. Ernest Ward Jr., a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member and owner of Seaside Animal Clinic in Calabash, N.C., hopes so. Because it's not just revenue at stake, it's patient health. More than a third of Dr. Ward's patients older than 7 are on some type of long-term medication, and careful monitoring heads off possible complications and helps him catch potentially life-threatening problems early. Here's the scoop on how his program works.

The plan

When Dr. Ward identifies a pet that will be taking a medication long term, he orders a standard blood test to make sure the pet can safely metabolize and excrete the medication. If everything checks out in this initial test, Dr. Ward prescribes the drug and schedules a recheck for two to four weeks later.

During the recheck appointment, a team member uses a brief survey to learn how the pet is responding to treatment and to probe for potential side effects. Then he or she draws blood for a recheck blood screen based on the pet's condition and medication. If the pet seems to be benefiting from the drug, the client hasn't reported any side effects, and the lab results don't indicate a problem, the staff member schedules an appointment for follow-up blood work three to six months later. If the team member finds an abnormality, Dr. Ward stops the prescription and weighs other possible treatments.

The boost to the bottom line

Dr. Ward charges about $116 for the initial visit, which includes an exam fee, and $52 for each follow-up visit. He estimates that 350 new patients undergo long-term medication monitoring at his clinic each year, which brings in about $77,000 in revenue, assuming two follow-up visits in a 12-month period:

($116 + $52 + $52) × 350 = $77,000

His only hard cost is for the blood test—about $26 for the initial visit and $14 for rechecks. After paying for this lab work, he sees $58,100 in profit every year:

($26 + $14 + $14) × 350 = $18,900

$77,000 – $18,900 = $58,100

"Long-term drug monitoring is a great way to stay involved in the pharmacy business and increase my contact with clients," says Dr. Ward. "And consistent contact with patients helps me diagnose many life-threatening conditions early. I diagnose more Cushing's disease, for example, through long-term medication monitoring than any other way."