Walgreens Pharmacists Instrumental in Helping Reduce Hospital Readmissions by Nearly 50 Percent Through WellTransitions Program

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PRESS RELEASE

DEERFIELD, Ill., Apr 4, 2014 -- Hospital patients who participated in Walgreens WellTransitions program were 46 percent less likely to experience an unplanned hospital readmission within 30 days of discharge1, according to new company research. WellTransitions, a pharmacist-led, transition of care program which collaborates with hospital systems across the nation, helps patients better understand prescribed medications during their hospital stay and remain adherent to medication regimens upon returning home. Walgreens research on the program, presented at the 2014 American Pharmacists Association (APhA) conference in Orlando, examined how patients enrolled in the WellTransitions program fared within 30 days of discharge relative to similar patients not enrolled in the program.

“WellTransitions addresses the growing need for coordinated health care programs that can help improve patient adherence to medications, while also helping hospitals reduce preventable readmissions,” said Bobby Clark, PhD, MSPharm, MHA, Walgreens senior director of health outcomes and clinical research. “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.”

Walgreens research shows WellTransitions to be effective across patients of varied ages and conditions:

  • WellTransitions patients under the age of 65 were 44 percent less likely to be readmitted and those 65 or older were 48 percent less likely to be readmitted
  • Patients with CMS targeted conditions, such as myocardial infarction, heart failure, and pneumonia, were 55 percent less likely to be readmitted and those with non-CMS target conditions were 26 percent less likely to be readmitted

Walgreens research examined 744 matched pairs of WellTransitions patients and non-patients in a retrospective case comparison study to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. The study was done by matching patients in the program with similar patients from the perspective of age, gender, race, disease state, comorbidities, insurance type, and length of stay, admission status, and discharge status.

“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,” said Clark.

Preventable hospital readmissions cost the U.S. health care system $25 billion annually2. An estimated 20 percent of hospitalized Medicare patients are readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge. This costs Medicare $15 billion, with 80 percent of the cost due to preventable readmissions.

WellTransitions helps reduce preventable hospital readmissions by supporting patients throughout the care continuum. Walgreens assists hospitals in identifying high-risk patients upon admission and providing services that reinforce a physician’s care plan. Walgreens clinicians work with patients post-hospital discharge to reinforce the care plan as prescribed, educate on the importance of medication adherence and encourage physician follow-up. Additional services offered include delivery of medications bedside and alignment of discharge medications.

Dr. Clark discussed the research findings and the need for further innovative solutions to decrease hospital readmission rates by curbing preventable readmissions at the 2014 APhA Conference, held March 28-31 in Orlando.

1. Bobby Clark, PhD, MSPharm, MHA, MS, MA; John Hou, PhD; Ed Cohen, PharD; Dan Kwasigroch, Rph, MBA; Susan Singer (2014). Reducing Preventable Hospital Readmission through a Pharmacist-led Care Transition Intervention

2. PriceWaterhouse Coopers’ Health Research Institute. (2008). The Price of Excess: Identifying Waste in Healthcare, 2008. Retrieved from http://www.pwc.com/us/en/healthcare/publications/the-price-of-excess.jhtml

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