Pharmacy partnerships help reduce readmissions

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Tom Rhoads
Tom Rhoads

With much of the healthcare industry focused on reducing hospital readmissions, most of us are familiar with the statistics: one in five Medicare patients is readmitted within 30 days, at a cost of $26 billion annually. But the personal experiences behind readmissions tell a much more compelling – and prescriptive – story about the problem.

My story is about a family member who was discharged too early after an injury and left to manage a complex drug regimen on his own. He was sent home to a second-floor apartment with no ability to walk and no support to figure out proper medication administration. Less than week later, he was readmitted for wound complications and non-adherence because he didn't understand the doctor's orders.

Similar experiences are shared in a recent Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report on Medicare readmissions data. The report shows how avoidance, fear and confusion can impact a patient's care at home, with stories from:

  • A hospital discharge planner who says the patient plan doesn't work because many families can't manage the patient at home.
  • Family members who are desperate for a break from caring for a sick loved one and beg to have them readmitted.
  • Patients who go to the hospital with out-of-control blood sugar levels but leave no wiser about how to properly administer insulin or eat right.

Pharmacists play an important role in ensuring patients get the care they need at home but until recently, their voices have not been heard on this critical issue. Innovative partnerships with pharmacy teams could affect big improvements in patient health.

Many pharmacies are partnering with payers, hospitals and employers on programs to manage and monitor patients' medications after discharge. At Parata, we support those strategies with strip packaging technology that collates all of a patient's medications by date and time of dose for easy compliance and better health outcomes.

Independent pharmacies are uniquely positioned to create local partnerships on adherence and monitoring programs, which would benefit payers, providers and patients. Local programs are likely to have high impact, as they allow pharmacists to have a more consultative relationship with patients.

Now is the time to bring pharmacy to the table to create readmission reduction strategies, track outcomes and extend successful programs to larger patient populations.

Tom Rhoads is the CEO of Parata.

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