How pharmacists are slashing readmission rates at a Philadelphia hospital

Pharmacist interventions at Philadelphia-based Einstein Medical Center cut the hospital's 30-day readmission rate by more than half for traditional Medicare patients, according to a study published in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy.

In an effort to reduce the risk that patients will be readmitted to the hospital, three pharmacists at Einstein were tasked with getting involved early with them — reviewing their medications, adjusting dosages, providing counseling and arranging for follow-up home visits.

The hospital research team tested this quality-improvement initiative on 1,059 admissions of 667 Medicare patients to Einstein Medical Center from July 2012 through June 2013.  The initiative cut the readmission rate by more than half for traditional Medicare patients — 9.8 percent compared to 20.4 percent for a group that did not receive the interventions.

Thirty of the 305 patients in the group that went through the full pharmacy intervention had unplanned readmissions, as opposed to 110 readmissions for the 518 patients who received the usual standard of care at discharge.

"We now have three pharmacists who do this in their day-to-day work," study author and Einstein's network pharmacy director Deborah Hauser told The Philadelphia Inquirer. Ms. Hauser began brainstorming ways pharmacists could help fight against readmissions in 2010.

Pharmacists are helping to reduce readmission rates at Philadelphia-based Penn Medicine as well.

"Pharmacists who work on inpatient units and in outpatient clinics, for example, conduct medication teaching for patients with diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, and a concierge service at several hospitals delivers patients new prescriptions prior to discharge," Richard Demers, chief administrative officer for Penn's ambulatory pharmacy services, told the Inquirer.

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