Hospitals tap drugstores to curb readmissions

Hospitals are looking to large drugstore chains, their vast databases and patient-outreach resources to help reduce hospital readmission rates.

With medication discrepancies doubling the risk of hospital readmissions, contracting with drugstores to monitor for prescription conflicts and follow up with patients is well worth the expense, healthcare researcher Jane Brock tells Colorado Public Radio.

Now that Medicare payments are at risk if too many patients come back within 30 days of discharge, hospitals have even more incentive to pursue drugstore partnerships.

"The infrastructure of doing these call back programs is not merely that there's a telephone and someone who can dial it," Randall Wagner, M.D., chief medical officer of Washington Adventist Hospital, says in the radio story, broadcast by National Public Radio. "It involves creating a database, creating a group of people who can call, and if the patient doesn't answer the phone, there's someone else who can call back. There's a handoff of information between the inpatient side and the outpatient side."

Drugstore giants Walgreens and CVS both have patient follow-up programs, according to the piece.

Walgreens WellTransitions program has community pharmacists working in hospitals alongside hospital pharmacists and clinicians to counsel patients on drug therapy and follow up after discharge.

CVS partners with the care-management company Dovetail Health to identify high-risk patients through predictive modeling and provide in-home pharmacist counseling and care coordination for up to 90 days, according to an article published in November by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices. Benefits are limited to CVS Caremark members at this point.

Meanwhile, Walgreens, the nation's largest drugstore chain, announced last month it was teaming up with physician groups to form three new accountable care organizations in New Jersey, Florida and Texas.

To learn more:
-read the Colorado Public Radio transcript or listen to the audio
-see the article in the Institute for Safe Medication Practices newsletter