Study: Walgreens' WellTransitions program helps reduce readmissions by nearly 50%

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Hospital patients who participated in Walgreens' WellTransitions program were 46% less likely to experience an unplanned hospital readmission within 30 days of discharge, according to new company research released Friday. 

WellTransitions, a pharmacist-led, transition of care program that collaborates with hospital systems across the nation, helps patients better understand prescribed medications during their hospital stay and remain adherent to medication regimens upon returning home. Walgreens research on the program, presented at the 2014 American Pharmacists Association conference in Orlando, Fla., examined how patients enrolled in the WellTransitions program fared within 30 days of discharge relative to similar patients not enrolled in the program. 

“WellTransitions addresses the growing need for coordinated healthcare programs that can help improve patient adherence to medications, while also helping hospitals reduce preventable readmissions,” stated Bobby Clark, Walgreens senior director of health outcomes and clinical research. “As thousands of hospitals face possible penalties from Medicare for high readmission rates, our findings reinforce the value of pharmacists’ expertise in medication counseling and therapy management, and how working closely to help patients understand medication therapies can be a key driver in reducing unplanned readmissions.” 

Walgreens research shows WellTransitions to be effective across patients of varied ages and conditions. WellTransitions patients younger than 65 years were 44% less likely to be readmitted and those 65 years or older were 48% less likely to be readmitted. And patients with CMS-targeted conditions, such as myocardial infarction, heart failure and pneumonia, were 55% less likely to be readmitted, and those with non-CMS target conditions were 26% less likely to be readmitted. 

Walgreens research examined 744 matched pairs of WellTransitions patients and non-patients in a retrospective case comparison study to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. The study was done by matching patients in the program with similar patients from the perspective of age, gender, race, disease state, comorbidities, insurance type, length of stay, admission status and discharge status.

“Walgreens WellTransitions program should serve as a model for how pharmacist-led and integrated coordinated care programs can improve patient health outcomes and provide an innovative solution to an industry concern,” Clark said.

Preventable hospital readmissions cost the U.S. healthcare system $25 billion annually. An estimated 20% of hospitalized Medicare patients are readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge. This costs Medicare $15 billion, with 80% of the cost due to preventable readmissions.

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