Walgreens, hospitals partner in pharmacy delivery at bedside

The largest drugstore chain, hospitals aim to curb readmissions
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The largest drugstore chain is partnering with a dozen hospitals to offer medication delivery while patients are still in the hospital--a model that Walgreens plans to roll out nationwide.

"We are collaborating with hospitals and health systems because there is a growing need for coordinated healthcare programs," Joel Wright, vice president of health systems operations at Walgreens, told FierceHealthcare. "This program aligns with our objective to get closer to patients and providers in order to help people get, stay and live well."

Called WellTransitions, the program aims to improve medication adherence and patient outcomes, thus reducing readmissions. Pharmacists review prescriptions at admission and discharge, checking for potential interactions. A Walgreens pharmacy staff member delivers the medication to the patient right at bedside, offering information on how to take the medication. The pharmacist also schedules follow-up calls to discuss the medication regimen and answer any remaining questions, providing 24/7 phone and online support to the patient.

Walgreens has nearly 8,000 drugstores in the country. The pharmacy giant is taking an active role in patient discharge--something that has been traditionally under the hospital's and primary care's purview. With a customer base of 6 million and sales worth of $72 billion in 2012, according to a company statement today, Walgreens is a "pioneer" with its move into transitional care, Spencer Hudon, clinical manager of Sarasota (Fla.) Memorial Health Care System's inpatient heart failure unit, told FierceHealthcare.

When asked if other pharmacies might take Walgreens' lead, Wright said, "Walgreens is uniquely positioned to play an integral role in helping to improve patient care and lower costs for both patients and payers." He added, "While getting closer to patients through developing more comprehensive coordinate care programs makes sense for our strategy, we cannot speak to how other pharmacies may view their role in addressing the challenges in the healthcare landscape today."

The hospital-pharmacy partnership has added to the value of Sarasota's readmissions work, according to Hudon.

"So often a barrier to preventing readmissions is that the patient didn't get their meds," Hudon said about transportation problems or other patient challenges. "Being able to get their meds before they leave the hospital, I feel, knocks down a big barrier," he said.  

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"Being able to get their meds before they leave the hospital ... knocks down a big barrier."
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Sarasota's heart failure nurse collaborates with Walgreens in Monday-through-Friday meetings, discussing the patients that might benefit from the program. Even for those patients who don't enroll in WellTransitions, Walgreens offers bedside delivery for any patient, Hudon noted.

In addition, a Walgreens pharmacist accompanies patient rounds on Sarasota's heart failure floor, although not part of the formal WellTransitions program.

Even though there aren't any outcomes data yet, Hudon said patients have been "very happy" with the program.

Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, Md., which also works with Walgreens, said the program has seen positive results. Out of 48 high-risk patients enrolled in the program, only three were readmitted, according to the Walgreens statement.

For more information:
- read the Walgreens statement

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