Most people reading the title of this article are probably wondering, “What does anticoagulation even mean?” Anticoagulation involves the use of drug therapy to prevent blood from clotting. Drugs used for this purpose are called anticoagulants, more commonly known as “blood thinners.” Anticoagulants are used to treat blood clots and to lower the chance of blood clots from forming in the body. Blood clots can cause a stroke or heart attack, so appropriate treatment is important to avoid these harmful events.
Some people who are prescribed an anticoagulant will need to take this medication while they are undergoing certain medical or surgical procedures, but others will need to take them for the rest of their lives. Dosing of anticoagulants is highly patient-specific. Diet and interactions with other medications can change the action of these drugs. Bleeding is a serious complication. Routine laboratory monitoring and dose adjustments are needed to ensure a patient’s anticoagulation therapy is safe and effective.
Pharmacist-run anticoagulation clinics are available to assist physicians in the management of patients taking anticoagulants. The majority of patients who attend these clinics take a particular drug called warfarin or Coumadin. The Anticoagulation Clinic at Mount Nittany Medical Center is overseen by a medical director and operated by a team of pharmacists who have been specially trained to manage patients on anticoagulants. More recently, the clinic has been able to open their doors to more patients because of additional pharmacists working with the clinic.
During a typical visit to the Anticoagulation Clinic, which takes approximately fifteen minutes, patients on warfarin will have their INR checked by a simple finger stick. An INR test tells how long it takes for blood to clot and is used to determine if a warfarin dose is too high or too low. Dosing adjustments are made if needed, and instructions are given regarding the dosing.
Also, the pharmacist is able to call in a prescription for warfarin to the patient’s pharmacy. Throughout each visit, the pharmacist will ask a set of questions to evaluate the patient’s therapy and aid them in deciding on an appropriate warfarin dose. Patients also have the ability to ask the pharmacist questions and be directly involved in their own care.
The pharmacists knowing the individual needs of all of the patients is a large advantage of the clinic. As an example, when patients are scheduled for surgery, the pharmacist works with both the surgeon and the primary care physician to develop a safe and appropriate anticoagulation plan around the time of surgery.
The Anticoagulation Clinic at Mount Nittany Medical Center provides many advantages to patients requiring anticoagulation therapy. It is a great option for those who are looking for single source management while still receiving adequate care from a specially trained professional.
If interested in enrolling in the clinic, your physician’s office will need to set up the initial appointment. For more information about the clinic, visit mountnittany.org.