A newly launched medical study by the Interdisciplinary Chronic Disease Collaboration and funded by Alberta Innovates-Health Solutions is seeking 5,000 Alberta seniors to participate, with the opportunity to have a 50 per cent chance of receiving free preventative medications through their existing Blue Cross coverage. The ACCESS study focuses on improving care for patients with chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, kidney disease, heart attack, stroke and diabetes. As well, the study seeks to reduce health care costs in these areas, nationally estimated to cost $93 billion. The program builds on earlier work started in 2009 spearheaded by a team of doctors. Team member and pharmacist Craig Curtis at the Foothills Hospital's Interdisciplinary Chronic Disease Collaboration, says enrolment started eight weeks ago. He estimates six months to a year before there's full enrolment unless there's a "flood of people, then obviously it'll fill up faster."
Informal surveys by doctors and pharmacists revealed many seniors stop taking medications because of the cost and uncertainty about the role of medications. Surveys have estimated that out of pocket expenses for seniors can be $1,000 per year. "We want to try and address these issues and then follow the patients for three years," Curtis explains. "We'd like to see if there's a change in the number of heart attacks, strokes, the number of admissions, and special procedures if you have a heart attack."
If it can be shown that the cost of medications is offset by savings in acute care – the cost of a bed per day is $2,000 – the money could be used elsewhere. "You could buy a lot of blood pressure pills for that," Curtis said. In addition to a 50 per cent chance of receiving free preventive medications through their existing Blue Cross coverage, participants have a 50 per cent chance of receiving comprehensive personalized education aiming to improve the use of appropriate preventive medications and making healthy lifestyle choices. Alberta's 5,000 pharmacists in rural and urban centres have been enlisted to not only aid in enrolling seniors but to assist in program delivery because they see clients on a regular basis. The program is designed to work seamlessly so extra work is not put on pharmacists. A further aspect of the study is to place greater emphasis on prevention, Curtis explained. "The cost of health care keeps increasing but we're not really good at spending money in the preventions."
Seniors are encouraged to enroll if they meet the following criteria:
-You are 65 years of age or older
-You have Senior's Alberta Blue Cross coverage
-You have a household income of $50,000 or less
-You have or have had heart disease, chronic kidney disease, a stroke or heart failure OR
-You have any two of the following: diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or current cigarette smoking
Call 1 – 844 – 944 – 8927 or www.Accesstrial.ca for more information.