Forging stronger bonds of coordinated care between hospitals, community pharmacies

Community pharmacy’s long struggle to win professional recognition and a full seat at the health provider table is finally finding some traction as health systems, individual healthcare providers, health plans and plan payers begin to really connect the dots and build a workable framework for a more patient-centric, evidence-based and cost-effective system of care in the United States.

Momentum is growing for a higher level of pharmacy practice: one that broadens the role of the community pharmacist as an accessible, frontline health professional working in collaboration with a more integrated local healthcare network. Another example of the trend came last week, with the announcement by the American Hospital Association that it has endorsed the Walgreens WellTransitions coordinated care program.

As reported Sept. 19 by Drug Store News, the AHA recognized WellTransitions “as another tool for hospitals seeking to reduce readmissions and support overall community wellness,” according to Anthony Burke, president and CEO of AHA Solutions. Burke cited Walgreens’ “broad scope of services” and its “long-term commitment to supporting hospitals’ efforts to extend patient care further into their communities.”

That’s good news for all pharmacy chains and independents. There’s a general movement by community pharmacy to align its growing menu of pharmacist-delivered wellness services — including medication therapy management and other patient-care programs, medication adherence outreach efforts and the unique ability of pharmacists to deliver personalized patient care — more closely with local hospitals and health systems. And the focal point for many of those collaborative-care efforts is the process of discharging patients from the hospital back into the community.

That’s what WellTransitions was set up to do. Walgreens group VP Joel Wright says it involves company pharmacists working closely with the hospital discharge team “to improve the transition of patients to their homes by educating and encouraging them to take their medications as prescribed.”

The concept works. As DSN’s Michael Johnsen reports, the collaborative-care effort yields a measurable reduction in 30-day hospital readmission rates among participating patients.

If you’re a community pharmacist — or a hospital-based pharmacist who may be the final point of contact between the hospital and the patient prior to discharge — we’d like to hear from you. How seamless is the handoff between the hospital and the patient’s local community health system — including the local pharmacy network — in your area? Is there a true network of integrated care, a lot of room for improvement, or any contact at all with the community pharmacist once the patient leaves the hospital?


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