Adults in the US seldom know how to navigate the US healthcare system. Kelly Potz, a student at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, is determined to change the health plan literacy gap in the US.
Potz and her colleague Lindsey Samera established a sustainable program of community outreach related to health insurance literacy based out of the University of Minnesota’s AMCP student chapter. When they began their quest, it was just themselves working on it; now, it is much bigger. They have now trained more than 80 student pharmacists.
“It's just been so great to watch the program grow from a team of two, to a full committee, to a program that now spans multiple organizations, has developed numerous educational materials, trained over 80 students, hosted multiple educational events in the community, and presented at a national conference,” Potz said.
Potz began doing this work because she saw how a lack of health plan literacy harmed patients. She said health insurance can be complicated, but that it doesn’t have to be. Potz believes that pharmacists have an important role to play in preventing health insurance from being too complicated for patients.
“Pharmacists can fill an unmet need in the community by closing the literacy gap for health plan selection and navigation through education and support,” Potz said. “Health literacy outreach can improve patient engagement, medication adherence, and increase utilization of preventative care, which in turn improves patient outcomes and results in cost savings for the health system. Training pharmacists to take on this work makes a lot of sense and can make a lasting positive impact on patients and our health care system.”
Through her work, Potz has grown both personally and professionally. She has learned how to better understand others and her teaching skills have improved as well. Her ability to guide patients to resources available to them, such as patient advocates and publicly posted health benefit information, has been enhanced as well.
Potz and Samera have plans to continue to expand their work in the future. Plans include forming corporate and government partnerships, increase web presence, and develop methods to track the program's impact on patient satisfaction and health.
Potz won’t be managing the program this year, but she is excited to stay on as an advisor and mentor to the program as she moves forward in her career.
“I am very excited to see the initiative continue to grow and evolve in the years to come,” Potz said. “It's worthwhile work. Our patients need it and the healthcare system needs it. And we can do something about it, so we will.”