Reduced Pharmacy Access Could Increase Readmission Rates

Readmission rates are high in rural areas with less access to pharmacy care.

Findings from a recent study suggest that hospital readmissions are higher in rural, remote, or small communities that have limited access to pharmacies.

Researchers found that readmissions in rural areas were 15.3% compared with 14.7% in urban areas that have increased pharmacy access. The study, published by the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, examined 507 pharmacies and 58 hospitals in Oregon, and used census data of patients over 65 years old.

“It's a huge burden both on a patient and our medical system when they have to be readmitted to a hospital. The modern pharmaceutical profession is increasingly being recognized as an important partner in health care, and as its services continue to expand it will help even more," said senior author of the study David Lee, PharmD. “This research shows that pharmacy access can help people from going back to the hospital. For older populations who often find hospital experiences quite exhausting, that's extremely important to their overall health.”

Researchers found that in certain parts of Oregon, a patient may have to drive 100 miles to locate a pharmacy, while another community only has 1 pharmacy that is open 54 hours per week. Researchers believe that availability, distance, and convenience present challenges for patients to gain the services they require for proper healthcare, according to the study.

They also noted that “pharmacy deserts” are an issue even in more urban areas.

“Large, urban, predominantly white communities usually have a lot of pharmacies and access,” said lead author Sarah Bissonnette, PhD. “But in some lower socioeconomic areas even within cities, it's much more difficult to find an open pharmacy.”

Researchers suggest that telepharmacy may be a viable option in these rural communities. With this type of service, patients can receive their prescriptions by mail and receive advice, monitoring, and counselling from remote pharmacists, the study concluded.