Healthcare News & Insights

Drug store partners with hospitals to improve transition of care

The stakes for improving transition of care have never been higher for hospitals, thanks to a new Medicare law that penalizes hospitals for high readmission rates. But one pharmacy is lending hospitals a hand to make the transition seamless.

WellTransitions is Walgreens’ new transition-of-care program designed to reduce preventable readmissions, while improving patient satisfaction and health outcomes. It brings hospitals and health systems together with the pharmacy in a coordinated-care model.

That’s a good thing, since preventable hospital readmissions cost the U.S. healthcare system approximately $25 billion per year. And according to a 2009 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, nearly one in five Medicare patients is re-hospitalized within 30 days of discharge.

The program has already helped Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, MD, reduce its patient readmissions. Of its first 48 high-risk patients enrolled in the program, only three were readmitted within 30 days of discharge.

“After discharge, many patients go straight home to continue their recovery and don’t get their prescriptions filled right away. Delays in taking prescribed medicines or missing a dose can result in slowed recovery or even a return to the hospital,” Tom Sweeney, Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at Washington Adventist Hospital, said in a press release. “This program helps ensure the patient has the medication needed to stay on the road to recovery after they leave the hospital, and provides an important resource if the patient has any questions about their prescriptions.”

Program offerings

Through the program, Walgreens’ pharmacists work closely with hospital staff to oversee medication therapies.  Pharmacists review patients’ prescriptions upon admission to the hospital and at discharge checking for potential interactions and simplification of medication regimen. The program also provides:

  • Bedside medication delivery – A Walgreens pharmacy staff member delivers medication the patient will need to take after discharge to the patient’s room and offers medication education and instruction
  • Patient counseling – Pharmacists provide medication counseling to both the patient and the caregiver and work in close communication with the medical staff
  • Regularly-scheduled follow-up calls – Pharmacists conduct regular calls to follow up on patient progress, discuss regimen and answer any questions or concerns, and
  • 24/7 pharmacist support – Pharmacy staff is available to answer patient questions 24/7 either over the phone or online.

In addition, the pharmacists work with patients to ensure they’ve scheduled an appointment with their primary care physician and to reinforce important self-care principles, such as checking their weight daily and reporting any significant fluctuations to their doctor.

“When a patient leaves the hospital with a new medication regimen, it can be overwhelming for both the individual and a caregiver,” Kermit Crawford, Walgreens’ president of pharmacy, health and wellness, said in a press release.  “Readmissions can be costly for the patient, as well as our healthcare system. Through this program, our pharmacists work closely with hospital staff to oversee medication therapies and to help make the discharge process smoother, providing the care patients need during, as well as after being discharged.”

Currently, the WellTransitions program is available at a number of locations, including Sarasota Memorial Health Care System (FL), Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma and Marion General Hospital in Marion, IN. Walgreens plans to implement its program through out the country.

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