Pharmacists Help Hospitals Cut Readmissions
by Deborah Borfitz
In 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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