Pharmacists Help Hospitals Cut Readmissions

August 1, 2013

by Deborah Borfitz

Deborah BorfitzIn May 2012, Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, MD, joined a handful of hospitals testing WellTransitions, a post-discharge program being de­veloped by Walgreens to help increase medication ad­herence and reduce preventable readmissions. More than a dozen hospitals were on board for the program’s rollout in October. Given outcomes to date, and the drugstore chain’s presence on 170 hospital campuses nationwide, the number of users appears likely to grow.

The offering comes in response to a Medicare payment policy that last fall began penalizing hospitals with high 30-day readmission rates for patients with heart attack, heart failure, and pneumonia.

WellTransitions matches newly discharged patients with a local pharmacist who counsels them on their medica­tions, connects them with additional resources, and works collaboratively with hospital staff. The program addresses the common problem of information over­load experienced by patients who are distracted and sleep-deprived with multiple medicines to self-manage.

The pharmacy-led program is unique because it’s tackling preventable readmissions in partnership with hospitals, according to Joel Wright, vice president of health systems operations for Walgreens. Response from hospitals and patients alike has been “over­whelmingly positive,” he says. Early results from DeKalb Medical Center in Atlanta indicate that patients participating in the program are 40 percent less likely to be readmitted to the hospital.

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