Elevating Pharmacy Practice Through Technology

Kristen Engelen, PharmD ’08, seeks to improve patient outcomes by helping pharmacists practice at the top of their license

Story by Ryan McDaniel | Published June 13, 2023

Kristen Engelen stands outside

Kristen Engelen was a bit panicked. She had just missed the deadline to fill out her FAFSA and was short on the required tuition for her next semester at the UNC School of Pharmacy. When she approached School administration with her issue, she was astonished by the caring response. “They were able to connect me with donor funding, allowing me to close the tuition gap for that semester,” she recalls. “It was such an incredibly compassionate experience.”

Compassion is a word Kristen lives by. In pharmacy school, she pursued training in geriatric care and underserved patient populations. After graduating, she sought to help those populations through work in community pharmacy, where she spent the next decade of her career. The aspect of that work she enjoyed most was getting to know people and problem-solve with them in real time. “I loved the opportunity to address the customer’s needs right there at the point of sale,” she reflects.

But, as her workplace shifted toward a business model of higher volume, Kristen found herself under pressure to fill more and more prescriptions as quickly as possible, leaving her with less and less time to have quality interactions with patients. “I’ve always believed that pharmacists have more to offer than just dispensing,” she says. “We have a skill set that we develop on the front lines that is great for addressing patient concerns because we have to deal with so many problems day in and day out. Having trained at UNC, I felt very well-prepared and positioned to provide additional clinical guidance.”

With this in mind, Kristen’s entrepreneurial spirit shone through. In 2018, she and her husband, Mark, founded RxLive with the goal of elevating the role of clinical pharmacists in healthcare. Specifically, by re-imagining pharmacist-led care delivery models and streamlining traditional practice with technology, RxLive helps healthcare organizations create value, cost savings, and revenue generation through clinical pharmacy. RxLive’s value-based pharmacy system includes pharmacist-led telehealth services, a clinical pharmacy software platform, and advanced analytics models that link medication use with hospitalization risk. These tools include data pharmacists traditionally don’t have access to, such as lab values, vital values, discharge summaries, and medication history data. As Kristen explains, “One of the ways [pharmacists] have remained siloed in our delivery of care is because we didn’t have enough information to make the right recommendations at the right time. So, the aim of integrating this data is to support the work of the pharmacist in order to improve patient outcomes.”

The natural space for RxLive to deliver impactful outcomes is working with value-based delivery organizations. From five years of data, RxLive has been shown to deliver meaningful reduction in hospital admissions (28% in targeted patients), and in 30-day hospital readmissions (27% reduction in targeted patients) through pharmacist-led clinical engagement. Most importantly, it’s allowing pharmacists to practice at the top of their license and to cultivate impactful connections with the patients they serve.

The future vision for the company is to be the primary platform for value-based pharmacy care and help patients, pharmacists, and providers across the country with medication management and deprescribing. “We see a lot of inertia in the health-care system for pharmacists to have these conversations with patients as to whether their medication is working as intended and whether or not they’re at their goal,” Kristen observes. “Having that time for a conversation is really key because providers have so little time during office visits to address the whole patient.”

That notion of the whole patient remains central to Rx Live. Behind the statistics-based outcomes reporting, data integration, and machine learning, is the simple premise that Kristen has embraced her entire career, and continues to drive forward – that compassion remains at the heart of healthcare.