Drugstore prescription program helps patients after discharge

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

LLH network press

From MedCity News


PEORIA — As if the Walgreen Co. logo wasn’t ubiquitous enough, it now greets visitors and patients in the lobby of UnityPoint Health-Methodist.

But the sight of a Walgreen’s pharmacy in the hospital lobby also is a sign of a growing trend in health care. The drugstore chain, which recently took over Methodist’s hospital-owned pharmacy, offers bedside delivery and express medication pick-up to patients being discharged.

Although the program aims to make picking up prescriptions convenient for those patients, it also addresses one of the more enduring problems health care professionals confront. That would be patients who don’t or can’t pick up medical prescriptions after they’re discharged from the hospital and don’t follow the prescription regimen.

Between 50 and 70 percent of prescriptions that are written are actually taken to a pharmacy, while 48 to 60 percent are actually picked up, said Joe Hersemann, Walgreen’s pharmacy manager at Methodist. He cited Walgreen Co. data.

After surveying patients 48 hours after discharge, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center also found a significant portion of their former patients had not filled prescriptions or were not taking them appropriately, according to spokeswoman Shelli Dankoff.

Mike Minesinger, pharmacist and owner of Alwan’s Pharmacy, an independent pharmacy in West Peoria, quoted figures from a 2010 study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Between 28 percent and 31 percent of new prescriptions for diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol went unfilled in a one-year study of 75,000 Massachusetts patients.

Health care professionals refer to the problem as “non-adherence.” Programs with goals similar to Walgreen Co.’s are increasing.

About 200 Walgreen pharmacies offer bedside delivery and express pick-up in hospitals and medical offices. St. Francis began offering bedside delivery to patients in 2012. Alwan’s is one of four pharmacies involved in “Simplify My Meds,” a national adherence study sponsored by the National Community Pharmacists Association. As the name implies, it’s designed to simplify filling and refilling prescriptions.

“This is really all about improving adherence to medications,” said Ryan Taylor, director of pharmacy and oncology services at Methodist, which still operates a pharmacy for hospitalized patients.

But increasing former patients’ adherence to medications also becomes more crucial as hospitals try to increase patient satisfaction, reduce hospital readmission rates and, ultimately, reduce costs. Under health care reforms, government reimbursements for medical care can also be cut because of admission rates.

The bedside delivery and express medication pick-up program at Methodist began on three floors in July and expanded to three more floors last week. The program eventually will go hospital-wide, although there is no set date.

Walgreen’s technicians work on each of the six floors. They help patients sign up for bedside delivery or express pick-up and take their insurance information. Patients do not have to be a Walgreen customer or refill prescriptions at Walgreen locations.

“That’s a good thing that people can get prescriptions filled,” said Minesinger, who believes it’s best for patients to stick with one pharmacy. “But what if a person doesn’t normally go to Walgreen’s? If I’m their pharmacist, I don’t know if they’ve gotten their medicine.”

Patients about to be discharged don’t have to agree to participate. But Hersemann said patients who participate don’t have to stop and pick up a prescription on the way home from the hospital.