Managing healthcare organizations is understandably difficult. In addition to the regulations, the frequent life-and-death nature of the work, and the financial strains, there are logistical and operational complexities beyond what most industries experience.
The fundamental one in the U.S. is the still fractured nature of service delivery and control. Patients often go from general practitioner to specialist, stopping at separate facilities for tests and therapy, with records and data having to tag along somehow in the process. Then there are the issues of follow up with patients, ensuring correct use of medicines and treatments, and using early intervention rather than more expensive later treatment at a more acute stage.
One of the challenges that healthcare leaders face is managing the overall healthcare process to increase wellness, manage time of interventions, and reduce costs. One possible tool is using pharmacies beyond places to dispense prescriptions. A recent study by Walgreens Health Services and Outcomes Research as well as IMS Health suggests that pharmacies may be well placed to help drive better health outcomes and lower overall costs of care delivery.
The study, “Improving Medication Adherence and Healthcare Outcomes in a Commercial Population Through a Retail Pharmacy Chain,” suggests that pharmacies can help improve outcomes through a variety of means, including one-on-one consultations, whether in person or over the phone, when patients start a new course of medication. Other interventions included automated calls, texts, and emails to remind patients of prescription refills and pick-ups.
“This data demonstrates that reaching patients when they start new medications through multiple pharmacy-led channels, including one-on-one consultations, can play an important role in driving better health outcomes,” said Harry Leider, M.D., Walgreens chief medical officer, in a company statement. “These interventions, along with ongoing support from pharmacy staff, translate into patients being less likely to end up in high-cost settings like the hospital or emergency room.”
The benefits found in the differences between the study and control groups included the following:
- A six-month per-patient savings of $164, or 3 percent
- 3 percent greater medication adherence
- Almost 2 percent lower hospital admissions
- Almost 3 percent lower emergency room visits, with $38 lower per-patient emergency room costs
Granted, the percentages are low and executives would have to consider whether the differences were statistically meaningful. However, the concept of looking at new ways of addressing healthcare efficiency is important. Innovation, so badly needed in the industry, means that things will have to work differently than before. Low-cost approaches that might chip away at costs and improve results should be examined and, if practical, embraced.
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