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A Prescription for Peace of Mind

Jessica Barrow says that taking care of her health was a full-time job—until she met pharmacist Bethany Spadaro three years ago. At that time, Jessica had just received a diagnosis for the health problems she’d suffered from for more than 20 years: hereditary angioedema. This rare and potentially life-threatening condition causes swelling in her stomach, hands, feet, and even her airway.

The pain was excruciating,” says Jessica. “I was going to the hospital so often that I moved closer to a fire station so the ambulance would arrive faster.” 

After Jessica’s diagnosis, her primary care provider, Dr. Kristine Cunniff, asked Jessica if Bethany could join them at her next appointment. 

A second set of eyes and ears

Dr. Cunniff and Bethany are part of Rhode Island Primary Care Physicians Corporation, a patient-centered medical home. In this type of care, a primary care provider cares for patients with help from a team of healthcare professionals, which may include nurses, counselors, specialists, and pharmacists. Visits with nurses and pharmacists in a patient-centered medical home are offered at no cost to BCBSRI members.

“Jessica was extremely stressed when I met her,” says Bethany. “She was having attacks three times a week. I started going to almost all of her appointments with Dr. Cunniff and her specialists. I worked with Jessica and her doctors to adjust her medication and help identify changes to her diet that might lessen the attacks.”

Because hereditary angioedema is a rare condition, Jessica’s medications are expensive and not easily available at local pharmacies or even all hospitals. Bethany has taken over ordering Jessica’s medications and helps her understand how to best use them. She’s even worked with local hospitals to make sure they stock the emergency medications Jessica needs to stop an attack. 

Jessica says she doesn’t know where she’d be today without Bethany. Although her health is still a struggle, her attacks are down to twice a month and her visits to the hospital are down to once a year. “Bethany and I talk nearly every day,” says Jessica. “She’s my second set of eyes and ears. It’s very comforting to know that I’m not alone.

Could a no-cost pharmacist visit help you?

Pharmacists help people with a wide range of health issues, from angioedema to heart disease to asthma. “My favorite part of my job is seeing people’s quality of life improve,” says Bethany. “I love celebrating successes with them.”

If you take three or more medications or have a health condition that isn’t under control, consider meeting with a pharmacist. They will:

  • Explain your health condition and how your medications work.
  • Check for problems such as side effects, interactions, and incorrect doses.
  • Suggest ways to lower medication costs. 
  • Talk with you and your doctor about any recommendations for changing your medications.

Think a pharmacist visit would help? Ask your primary care provider if there is a pharmacist at your practice. If there isn’t, please email Pharmacy.Programs@bcbsri.org and we'll put you in touch with a pharmacist.