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Study: Walgreens program cuts hospital readmissions
April 4th, 2014
DEERFIELD, Ill. – Walgreen Co.'s WellTransitions program is significantly reducing hospital readmissions, according to new research from the company.
Walgreens said Friday that hospital patients who participated in WellTransitions were 46% less likely to experience an unplanned hospital readmission within 30 days of discharge, the research found.
WellTransitions also proved to be effective across patients of various ages and conditions, Walgreens said.
For example, WellTransitions patients younger than 65 were 44% less likely to be readmitted, and those 65 or older were 48% less likely to be readmitted. Patients with CMS-targeted conditions — such as myocardial infarction, heart failure and pneumonia — were 55% less likely to be readmitted, and those with non-CMS-targeted conditions were 26% less likely to be readmitted.
Walgreens' research on WellTransitions, presented at the 2014 American Pharmacists Association conference in Orlando, Fla., examined how patients enrolled in the program fared within 30 days of discharge, compared with similar patients not enrolled in the program.
A pharmacist-led, transition of care program that works with hospital systems nationwide, WellTransitions is designed to help patients better understand prescribed medications during their hospital stay and adhere to medication regimens when returning home.
"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," Bobby Clark, Walgreens' senior director of health outcomes and clinical research, said in a statement. "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 — titled "Reducing Preventable Hospital Readmission through a Pharmacist-led Care Transition Intervention" discussed by Clark at the APhA event — 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" Clark added.
Preventable hospital readmissions cost the U.S. health care system $25 billion annually, Walgreens reported, citing a PriceWaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute study. An estimated 20% of hospitalized Medicare patients are readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge — costing Medicare $15 billion, with 80% of that expense due to preventable readmissions.
Launched in 2012, WellTransitions aims to reduce preventable readmissions by supporting patients throughout the care continuum. Walgreens assists hospitals in identifying high-risk patients upon admission and providing services that reinforce a doctor's care plan. Walgreens clinicians work with patients after their hospital discharge to reinforce the care plan as prescribed, promote medication adherence and encourage physician follow-up. Additional services include delivery of medications to the bedside and alignment of discharge medications.