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Desert Blossom is a health and rehabilitation center in Mesa, Arizona, that strives to exceed the expectations and make a difference in the lives of those it serves by providing exceptional care and services, including post-acute care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and wound care. With every admission, it carefully designs the best treatment plans, no matter the duration of a resident’s stay. Among the many facets of this effort is the crafting of a discharge plan that anticipates a resident’s every need once they’re ready to return home.
“With any discharge, both the patient and their family can be anxious,” said Sara McPherson, director of medical records, Desert Blossom. “They want a smooth transition.”
Transitions of care are among the most paramount for long-term care facilities because of the inherent risk of fragmented care that can lead to critical health issues. And this gap is particularly apparent in medication management. In fact, adverse drug events cause more than one million emergency room visits each year and medication errors account for 66 percent of hospital readmissions.
That’s why Desert Blossom pays special attention to the “discharge roadmap” for each resident that answers common questions like: What medications do I take? How do I obtain my prescriptions? How do I pay for the medications?
In 2017, Desert Blossom teamed with PharMerica for pharmacy services, selecting the organization for its responsiveness and wide range of tools that have become essential to the center’s operation. Among these is DischargeRx, which helps make the discharge process at Desert Blossom run more efficiently. This customer service, provided free by PharMerica, ensures the continuity of medications once residents leave the facility, taking care of all the details.
Under DischargeRx, remaining medications are pulled from the cart or new medications are automatically filled and delivered to the facility prior to discharge. The resident is then provided a 14- to 30- day supply in a dedicated bag when leaving, along with instructions on use.
“This includes making sure residents don’t have to make a stop at a pharmacy on the way home,” explained McPherson.
PharMerica worked with its clients before launching DischargeRx to ensure it would make things easier on providers and residents. But efficiency isn’t the only benefit; cost containment is perhaps the biggest advantage of DischargeRx.
How It Works:
When residents take remaining medications home, it also frees clinical staff from having to collect and process returns to the pharmacy, saving on labor. The same holds true in states where facilities are responsible for destroying medications.
Moreover, by optimizing hand-offs, the program ensures residents continue their progress at home and don’t suffer any setbacks that necessitate a return to the hospital. In that way, the program helps the facility save on penalties stemming from higher-than-expected readmission rates.
PharMerica developed DischargeRx because it recognized there was a void in the marketplace on making sure medications tracked with a resident home, and that they also received follow-up attention. To address this deficiency and better understand what happens to a resident after discharge, the pharmacy places a call to residents within 30 days of returning home as part of DischargeRx.
“On cost alone, with our facility discharging over 10 patients a week, the value of the program adds up. In fact, DischargeRx saves us beween $2,000 and $4,000 a month on the cost of remaining medications that patients take home thanks to seamless split billing with the insurers.”
– Scott Petty, executive director, Desert Blossom
This direct outreach to the patient to ensure medication adherence and that a follow-up appointment is scheduled with their physician can help prevent a mediation-related hospitalization after they’re discharged.
“The way we address the discharge process, particularly the medication portion, has been a real differentiator that makes us stand out to hospitals,” said Petty.
Desert Blossom relies on DischargeRx to promote the best clinical outcomes by ensuring residents continue to receive the medications they need, when they need them. Thanks to continued compliance at home, the program reduced the facility’s readmissions by 50 percent in just six months, resulting in lower-than-average rates.
As evolving regulations and payment systems escalate the accountability facilities face for hospital readmissions rates, this proactive step can positively impact a facility’s Five Star Quality Rating – and community reputation by extension. And since hospitals are also being held accountable for readmission rates, they are incentivized to create networks with high-ranked facilities so Desert Blossom’s lower rates drive its preferred status and referrals.
“The rules of participation and federal laws are constantly changing and PharMerica keeps us abreast of the latest information so we can provide proper care and medications to patients while remaining in compliance,” added Petty.