After serving in leadership positions in multiple pharmacy business units throughout the U.S. for more than 19 years with Walgreens, last month Randall Odebralski became the new Chief Operating Officer for the healthcare nonprofit Good Days – one of the nation’s largest providers of financial help to seriously ill Americans who cannot afford their medication.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Can you tell us about your background and what influenced your decision to do the work that you do?
I come from a humble background, our motto was to be happy for what you have and to contribute where you can. A foundational piece of my upbringing was the importance of helping others, and that has definitely stayed with me today. As I moved through college I decided to focus on health administration and almost by chance got a position with Walgreens. It was an organization that I enjoyed working for and learning from, and I stayed with them for 19 years. At Walgreens I gained experience in the business aspects of the healthcare industry, but outside of that – having the ability to impact a patients’ life, to contribute to a better balance of life for an individual, touches a common thread between all people and makes it more than just work for me.
How has your work in the specialty pharmaceutical sector prepared you for your new role with Good Days?
My initial entrance into the healthcare world began with a traditional pharmacy focus around providing maintenance medications such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes therapies, and expanded into dealing with patients who required more complex therapies and care plans, including home and ambulatory infusion, long term care, hospice and home care, and most recently with specialty medications.
Collectively, these experiences have given me an understanding of the impact one can have in their respective role working as a part of a care continuum. Whether it be financial assistance, or help with travel and lodging costs associated with receiving treatments, I truly appreciate what we can offer at Good Days and am fortunate to be a part of a hard-working team that has allowed me to continue to thrive and to contribute in making a difference for people. Can you tell us about the organizational structure of an organization like Good Days, and how it accomplishes serving patients in need?
Good Days is one of the nation’s largest providers of financial help to seriously ill Americans who cannot afford their medication. Our funding comes from generous contributions of donors, which includes individuals as well as from corporate-giving partnerships, and our pledge is that more than 90 cents of each dollar goes directly to patients we serve.
In terms of financial assistance, after a patient has been diagnosed and has received a treatment plan requiring prescription medication, they will need go to a pharmacy to fill the prescription and learn what their insurance copay will cost. If the pharmacy is in our Good Days Network, either the patient or pharmacist can contact us directly for financial help.
A patient’s struggle goes beyond simply having access to their medication and Good Days supports multiple patient needs. Out-of-town treatments can mean travel or lodging fees, for instance. We offer a special Travel Concierge Program to help facilitate a patient’s access to healthcare whenever travel is required. This program will cover secondary travel costs such as parking, fuel, and meals. We offer transportation services from road to air, for pre-approved medical appointments. From time to time, healthcare appointments require an overnight stay and Good Days will help arrange lodging and cover the expense.
Does Good Days work with any partner organizations or vendors to achieve its mission?
As an organization we get to work with a lot of great partners who share in our mission. Sister organizations such as the Patient Access Network Foundation, Cancer Care and Patient Services Inc. offer similar assistance programs and if a particular disease fund is closed for Good Days, we will make a reference for another organization to make sure a patient can get assistance.
We also work with these organizations to raise awareness when we can. Just a few weeks ago Good Days participated in a panel discussion at a conference event in Washington, D.C. for the National Association of Specialty Pharmacy on enhancing the patient experience. The panel included other patient assistance charity organizations as well as advocacy groups. It was first time that annual meeting included 501c3 organizations, so it was a new chance to engage with stakeholders in our space that we were happy to be a part of.
In addition, we have the ability to work with all key stakeholders in the industry, from pharmaceutical manufacturers, specialty pharmacies, physicians, the payers or insurance plans and most importantly the patients. We have a unique mission as an organization, but at the same time we all should have one common goal and that is helping the patient. So we do our part to make sure we are looking for opportunities to work with our partners to meet patient needs.
National trends show that the nation is on an unhealthy path – with up to two-thirds of Americans characterized as overweight. Will these trends impact Good Days’ work, and if so, how?
Any factor that can contribute to a negative health outcome or contributes to factors for disease states, may result in the need and demand for specific types of disease funds. So we certainly stay aware of the current healthcare situation nationally.
I attended a Good Days event a few years back and Dr. Tedd Mitchell, the president of Texas Tech University’s Health Sciences Center, was among the speakers. He nicely summed up this question of how health conditions shape our ability to do our work. The discussion was about the environment, genetics and behavior, and the fact is some of it we can control, and some of it we cannot. Behavior we can control and to the extent possible we all have to do our part.
As an organization we drive and support healthy initiatives with our team members, community and business partners. This includes contributing to community-wide health events, participating in patient advocacy support walks and other activities, and speaking when possible to promote patient access. It is up to everyone to do what they can to have an impact both from an individual level and increasingly from an organizational or company-wide level.
Copay programs have been in the news lately for their perceived impact in rising drug prices, since these programs ensure a patient can access medicine or treatments even though prices might rise over time. How does Good Days ensure that it is helping patients while not at the same time contributing to an all-around more expensive marketplace?
In the grand scheme of things, we look at the complexity of the entire healthcare system. Our focus is to assist patients in obtaining required medication and contributing to making a person’s life better. Prices are outside of our control and our focus needs to remain on the patient no matter what. That is our commitment to the patient, that we will do what we can to remove barriers to care. We follow the rules as a 501c3 organization, we partner with other organizations where we can to be a champion of patient access, and we do what we can to put a smile on the patients we serve.
No one asks the patient dying of cancer what six months can potentially give them for themselves, for their children and grandchildren, and for their legacy. Too often the human side of this is lost in the mix of statistics, figures, dollar signs and theories. The bottom line is: if no one is being an advocate for the patient, we are all losing.
What do you hope to accomplish with Good Days in the years ahead? Are there any particular areas of growth or other goals set that you’re working towards?
That is a great question. First of all, we want to build on what we have already established. Having been a partner to and now as a part of Good Days, I am constantly amazed by the level of care and dedication we have to the patients we serve. I say that because I feel it is an awesome thing to be a part of each day. I am genuinely both humbled and enthused to be a part of Good Days and look forward to contributing to our future success in continuing to support patients and people. That is the common thread we can all relate to regardless of any other factors.
As an organization, we will continue to drive solutions to patient access through financial assistance but we will also look for new ways to provide strategic solutions to our patients. That means we need to explore opportunities in our business model that make sense, keep abreast of what is happening in the healthcare market, and find ways to collaborate where appropriate. We have an obligation and responsibility as an organization to everyone we represent and that means we have to understand patient needs and then deliver assistance in the best way possible.
Thanks very much for your time and speaking with us today.
It was my pleasure, thank you for the opportunity.