Study: Walgreens WellTransitions Program Reduces Readmission Rates

Aimee Simone, Assistant Editor
Published Online: Monday, April 7, 2014
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Patients in the WellTransitions program, in which pharmacists help patients transition from hospital to home, were 46% less likely to experience an unplanned hospital readmission within 30 days of discharge.

Hospitalized patients who received care from pharmacists as part of Walgreens' transition-of-care program, WellTransitions, were significantly less likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge, according to a study presented at the American Pharmacists Association 2014 Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida.
 
WellTransitions, launched in 2012, includes pharmacists in a coordinated care model to help patients better transition from their homes after hospital discharge with the goals of improving adherence and reducing preventable readmissions. Walgreens pharmacists work alongside hospital staff to review medications, counsel patients and caregivers, and offer medication education and instruction. The program has been endorsed by the American Hospital Association for its success in improving medication adherence and reducing hospital readmissions, and early results suggested that the program significantly decreased readmission rates within the first 6 months of its initiation. The new study adds to and supports these findings with more evidence.
 
The retrospective case study compared readmission rates for 744 pairs of WellTransitions patients and non-patients matched based on age, gender, race, disease state, comorbid conditions, insurance type, length of hospital stay, admission status, and discharge status.
 
Overall, the results indicated that patients who participated in the WellTransitions program were 46% less likely to experience an unplanned readmission within 30 days of discharge than were patients who did not participate in the program. The results also indicated that the program helped to reduce readmissions across different conditions and age groups. WellTransitions patients with conditions not targeted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) were 26% less likely to be readmitted, and those with CMS-targeted conditions, including myocardial infarction, heart failure, and pneumonia, were 55% less likely to be readmitted than were control patients. Compared with patients who did not participate in the program, WellTransitions patients aged younger than 65 had a 44% reduced risk of readmission, while those aged 65 and older had a 48% reduced risk of readmission.
 
The results are especially important given the high rates of hospital readmission and costs associated with it, the study authors suggest.
 
“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,” said Bobby Clark, PhD, MSPharm, MHA, Walgreens senior director of health outcomes and clinical research, in a press release. “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.” 

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