|Ocala, FL -
March 12, 2012|
Published in Ocala Star-Banner on Monday, March 12, 2012 at 5:47 p.m.
A new local program between health care systems and a pharmacy is aimed at improving patient health, helping bottom lines by reducing readmissions and improving patient satisfaction scores.
About one in every five Medicare patients exiting the nation’s hospitals is readmitted within a month, according to The New England Journal of Medicine.
Mike Harper, Munroe Regional Medical Center’s director of pharmacy, estimates that about a quarter of those are due to patients not taking the medicines they are prescribed when they leave.
Munroe and Walgreens kicked off a new program this month in which the pharmacy and hospital try to simplify the process whereby patients about to be discharged receive their medicines.
The Ocala Health System, which owns Ocala Regional Medical Center and West Marion Community Hospital, will start an identical program Monday with Walgreens.
Walgreens now stations a pharmacy technician at Munroe, who offers to fill patient prescriptions before they leave the hospital, saving them a trip to the pharmacy.
Scott Dyen, Walgreens’ director of transition care services, said many discharged patients want to get home and postpone going to a pharmacy, and in many cases don’t take their medicines at all.
“To me, it’s filling a gap,” Dyen said. “And that’s what it’s about. Keeping them out of the hospital.”
Walgreens also contacts the patient within three days to make sure they are taking the medications and to ask if they have any questions.
The pharmacist technician also helps patients try to reduce costs by alerting them to coupons and subsidy programs, Harper said.
“It’s just good patient care to have a good seamless transition (from the hospital back home),” he said.
Dyen said there is no additional charge for the service and patients pay the pharmacy technician the same way they would at the store.
Walgreens provides similar services at 40 Florida hospitals and another 40 throughout the country.
Dyen said only about 15 percent to 20 percent of patients get new prescriptions filled.
In 2009, avoidable readmissions cost the healthcare industry about $25 billion, according to a 2010 PriceWaterhouse Coopers’ Health Research Institute study. About 11 percent of readmissions within 30 days are avoidable.
Improving patients’ experience and overall quality of care will be increasingly important factors in how much hospitals are paid as new federal guidelines roll out over the next couple of years.
The federal government’s Medicare program will penalize hospitals with higher-than-expected readmission rates for patients treated for heart failure, heart attack or pneumonia.
Poorly performing hospitals could see their Medicare reimbursement rates cut by as much as 1 percent beginning in October, 2 percent in 2013 and 3 percent in 2014.
For a hospital like Munroe, which is reimbursed about $35 million annually by Medicare, penalties could be severe.