No one questions the need to reduce hospital readmissions as a major tool in containing health costs. Actually, the question is in how best to keep patients from requiring a return trip to the hospital. As many hospital administrators have accurately pointed out, there are real world limitations on what they can do to maintain an individual’s health status and make sure they’re adhering to physicians’ instructions once they’re back in their own homes.
A story this week by Eric Whitney of Colorado Public Radio, published in Kaiser Health News, explains how the community pharmacy is serving as that critical link between the hospital and the at-home patient.
The story points out how a major national pharmacy, Walgreens (a Healthcare Leadership Council member) is working with hospitals to head off one of the primary reasons patients end up back in a hospital bed – medication errors, or a failure to take prescribed medications.
Walgreens Vice President Jeffrey Kang described the pharmacy’s role in this initiative as “our grandfather’s Walgreens on steroids.” Working closely with hospitals, Walgreens is making sure that the patient has no conflicting prescriptions upon discharge and is actively following up with patients to make sure they fully understand their prescriptions and are taking the medications properly.
As the Kaiser story notes, research shows that having a pharmacist follow up with a patient reduces the likelihood they will have a recurrence of symptoms and require re-admittance to the hospital.
This article tells us that sometimes the answer to complex public policy challenges might be as close as the corner drugstore.