AAP study highlights pros, cons of EDs dispensing medications

There's a case for EDs to dispense medications as the U.S. tracks low medication adherence after emergency visits, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics study published May 30. 

Past research has shown that between a third to half of patients do not pick up priority medications after ED visits, and reasons why include transportation, cultural and language barriers and "discordance with providers," according to the AAP study. In anticipation of low adherence, some EDs might feel compelled to administer more medication — which increases hospital costs and length of stays. 

"The resources spent on emergency care will not result in optimal outcomes unless prompt medication availability is achieved," the researchers wrote. 

The authors said EDs dispensing medications have the perks of securing a nearby 24-hour pharmacy and prioritizing drugs in shortage for more severe cases. Some emergency care facilities might be unable to staff a pharmacy, though, and state regulations and payer reimbursement plans might restrict EDs dispensing medications. 

Other considerations are streamlining patient flow, handling increased costs from operating a pharmacy and discouraging minor acute cases, the authors said.

"Dispensing important and necessary medications from the ED outpatient pharmacy in selected instances, if logistically, legally, and financially possible," could maximize optimal outcomes, the authors concluded.

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