6 Tips to Align an Outpatient Pharmacy with Its Associated Hospital

JANUARY 27, 2016
Time and time again, independent pharmacies have demonstrated tremendous market resiliency by offering patient-oriented amenities, niche marketing, and above all, customer service.
 
With proper planning and direction, great staff, and tireless effort, a financially viable community pharmacy will be poised to stay put in the neighborhood for years to come. There is hope for the independent pharmacist after all.
 
That is all well and good, but what about the community hospital outpatient pharmacy? This pharmacy is usually located in a medical office building on the hospital campus, or perhaps in the lobby of the hospital.
 
Traditionally, the community hospital outpatient pharmacy has been an excellent care model. Prescribers write the orders, and then patients pick up the prescriptions on their way home from their hospital visit.
 
The issue is that this type of pharmacy is usually not located in the most convenient location for follow-up services.
 
Don’t get me wrong: I love this type of pharmacy. As a matter of fact, I practice in this environment. 
 
With excellent service and a lot of work, the patients will come. Our store has done well by serving the hospital employee population, the physicians from surrounding offices and their families, a local retirement facility, and many folks who drive past local big-box pharmacies just to come to our little store.
 
Convenience for local health care professionals and exemplary service for those who come into the store is great, but no amount of service can overcome the decreasing insurance reimbursement in this competitive prescription medication marketplace. As a result, the survival of the community hospital outpatient pharmacy depends on its ability to make itself indispensable to the hospital it is associated with.
 
Here are 6 things that an outpatient pharmacy can do to help maintain alignment with its associated hospital:
  1. Make sure that the pharmacy’s hours of operation align with the peak discharge hours of the hospital and emergency room. 
  2. Create and maintain an open line of communication with the nursing staff, especially from the emergency room and telemetry units.
  3. Make sure that the inpatient pharmacists are detailing and promoting the outpatient pharmacy services at every opportunity.
  4. Ask to participate in the weekly or monthly readmission campaign meetings.  What is the hospital doing to help prevent readmissions? How can the outpatient pharmacy participate and help meet readmission goals?
  5. Try to meet with the nurse case managers and social workers. We all know about the importance of medication adherence following complicated cardiac and respiratory related hospital stays. How can the outpatient pharmacy help the discharge planning team facilitate getting the discharge prescriptions filled and into the hands of patients before they leave the hospital?
  6. Begin a discussion with the hospital’s pharmacy director to create a plan that details what opportunities the outpatient pharmacy may have to help increase Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Provider and Systems (HCAHPS) scores, which measure patients’ perspectives on their care. Opportunities to increase this score involve spearheading specific program development, funding, and implementation in health systems. 
Community pharmacists at outpatient pharmacies are experienced at providing excellent service. Now, we need to take that service and direct it toward our associated community hospital as if it were our core customer.

Steve Leuck, PharmD
Steve Leuck, PharmD
Steve Leuck, PharmD, has been practicing both hospital and community pharmacy for over 30 years. He founded AudibleRx, in 2011, which provides Consumer Medication Information which is both Useful and Accessible. Content designed to meet health literacy guidelines. Format designed to "read along" with the audio presentation in a simple to use web application. More information at AudibleRx.org.
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