Bringing Healthcare Home: Pharmacist Flips the Script on Patient Care
Company founded by MCPHS alum fills a growing need for home healthcare.
When Milka Njoroge, PharmD ’06, was working in the cardiovascular unit of a major hospital, she noticed a troubling trend. She would see patients again just a few weeks after discharging them. Dr. Njoroge took pride in addressing their concerns, adjusting their medications, and giving them the tools they needed to leave the hospital—only for them to be readmitted a short time later.
“I wanted to focus on how we could prevent this,” Dr. Njoroge said. “I saw patients who needed help transitioning back to their homes and staying out of the hospital.”
This inspired Dr. Njoroge to create Worcester-based Century Homecare. Using her expertise in medication management, she created a model to help patients—particularly in underserved communities—manage their conditions at home. Her organization’s clinicians conduct approximately 2,000 home visits across Massachusetts every week. They are trained to take a holistic approach to healthcare to uncover and address the underlying challenges their patients are facing.
“For example, if they are helping a patient with diabetes management but the patient doesn’t have food, the focus has to be on what we need to do to get them food,” she explained. “There is so much more that affects the patients we serve. Care has to be individualized for it to be effective.”
Providing care in the home also fosters transparency and brings a level of comfort that can lead to honesty. If Dr. Njoroge is in a clinic and asks her patient if they’re taking their medicine every day, the patient will likely answer in the positive or in the way they feel they should answer. If she goes to the patient’s home, however, and sees medicine from three days ago still in their weekly pill planner, she can ask what happened and get to the root of the issue faster.
“To say that I successfully served a patient, I need to be able to ask the right questions and gather the information I need to help them,” she said. “I need to be able to hear what’s not being said.”
Since its founding in 2012, Century Homecare has become a rotation site for several colleges—including Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences—to expose students to opportunities in a different healthcare setting. As CEO of the company, Dr. Njoroge believes that home healthcare is an ideal place for aspiring medical professionals to take what they’ve learned from books and classes and apply it in patient-specific scenarios.
“I hope to encourage my students to get a broader perspective of who their patients will be,” she said. “Seeing them in the home setting will help them understand the challenges people face and identify the best way to overcome them.”
Dr. Njoroge also says it’s important for those just starting in the field to see the diversity of the population they serve. She sees this as a learning opportunity.
“When students envision who their patients will be and who will be affected by the choices they make, they need to realize that most patients won’t look like them,” she said. “It teaches students to be open to new perspectives they may not have anticipated.”
Demand for home healthcare has skyrocketed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Njoroge is working not only to expand the reach of Century Homecare, but also to make the services her company provides a more widely-recognized option for those graduating with a PharmD.
“Pharmacists have a variety of options for where they can practice,” she said. “I encourage students to be curious about them all and discover how they want to use their skills to serve others.”