Cardinal Health and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation are calling for proposals to research the effects of pharmacist-provided medication therapy management services on hospital readmission rates.
Medications only do their jobs if patients take them as instructed by physicians, but physicians' ability to ensure that patients are doing what they're supposed to is limited. That's where pharmacists can step in to help make a difference.
As NACDS Foundation president Kathleen Jaeger said, hospital readmissions cost the healthcare system $26 billion per year, and medication non-adherence and bad side effects from medications are leading causes of them. The costs from non-adherence, of course, contribute to the nearly $300 billion in waste attributed to medication non-adherence every year, as estimated by the New England Healthcare Institute.
Pharmacists can schedule medication therapy management sessions with patients to help ensure that they know how to take their medications and know the risks of not taking them. These efforts go a long way toward saving money for the health system. According to a study earlier this year of 285 Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota beneficiaries, every dollar invested in the delivery of MTM by community pharmacists yielded a $12 return on investment, and another MTM project, by Kerr Drug in North Carolina, found a 13-to-1 return on investment as the programs improved patients' health and outcomes. Another study, released in February and conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University and Thrifty White Pharmacy, found that patients who participated in a medication synchronization program and took their medications correctly were more likely to stay well, make fewer clinic visits and require fewer hospitalizations.
Earlier this year, DSN reported that Fruth Pharmacy, a regional chain based in Point Pleasant, W.Va., was working with a local hospital system to develop an accountable care organization, which it would work with the hospital on medication reconciliation for patients discharged with certain medical conditions, providing counseling phone calls and ensuring medication adherence in an effort to prevent readmissions.
The simple fact that the NACDS Foundation and Cardinal Health are calling for study proposals shows what a crucial role pharmacists have to play in the healthcare system as guardians of health after patients have left the hospital or doctor's office, to say nothing of what experience has already shown.