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Reducing Hospital Readmissions with the Pharmacy of the Future

With Onxy and Intel technology, USF Health built its Pharmacy Plus system, which enables patient engagement, and thus helps reduce hospital readmissions.
By Intel
10:54 AM
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Designing a Pharmacy for Smarter Care

As hospital readmissions strain healthcare systems, pharmacies are rethinking the role they play in the connected healthcare workflow. Hospitals want to enable pharmacists to provide more informed counseling, while leveraging the pharmacy as a channel to encourage patients to be more proactive in their health. USF Health at the University of South Florida, Tampa, has digitally transformed its pharmacy with Onyx medical-grade all-in-one computing systems, powered by Intel® processors.

At USF Pharmacy Plus*, new Internet of Things (IoT) technologies allow patients to conduct follow-up visits via videoconference and real-time screen sharing with doctors. Robotic arms can automatically fill prescriptions, and pharmacists can connect to patient records to help avoid drug interactions or allergic reactions. This new generation of pharmacy is leading to fewer hospital readmissions, more satisfied patients, and a higher caliber of care.

Pharmacies Key to Fewer Readmissions

Hospital readmissions have become a costly problem for patients, healthcare systems, and insurers in the U.S. For Medicare patients alone, the cost of readmissions has climbed to roughly $26 billion annually, of which an estimated $17 billion could have been avoided with better post-discharge care.1

An important, but often overlooked, step in preventing readmissions exists at the pharmacy. Studies show that problems with medication—patient non adherence, adverse drug events, unintentional overdoses, and missing information—account for a substantial portion of readmissions. One study in particular found that patients with medication discrepancies had a 30-day hospital readmission rate of 14.3 percent, compared with 6.1 percent for patients without a discrepancy.2

By 2014, three-quarters of hospitals in the U.S. had adopted electronic health record (EHR) systems, which make patient records available to providers in real time.3 However, most pharmacies do not have access to EHR systems. It’s a missed opportunity for expertly trained pharmacists to avoid drug interactions, prevent allergic reactions, and offer better patient education to reduce other potential problems.

Better Engagement, Smarter Consulting

At the forefront of digital pharmacy innovation is USF Health. In 2015, the hospital system unveiled its Pharmacy Plus, a new model designed to help pharmacists provide better consulting, encourage patients to be more involved in their care, and enable patients to communicate more extensively with providers. At the core of the pharmacy’s reinvention are workstations, mobile nursing workstations, patient infotainment terminals, and medical panel PCs powered by Intel processors.

To start with, Onyx solutions enable USF Health to feed its EHR system into Pharmacy Plus. Now prescriptions are automatically transmitted to the pharmacy and filled immediately. This process not only provides faster customer service, but also minimizes human errors and saves employee time. More important, pharmacists can access the EHR for additional information about patients, such as allergies or other conditions, on their physician workstations. This helps pharmacists provide better consultations or recommend medications that may lead to better outcomes.

To empower patient self-management, Pharmacy Plus added private patient-education stations. These stations feature a patient infotainment terminal, which provides interactive, educational content for post-treatment and recovery guidance. In the pharmacy reception area, patients can conduct simple self-triage prior to their telemedicine visits using wearable devices that communicate with mobile nursing workstations and slim patient kiosks.

Technology for Telemedicine

Telemedicine is growing as the healthcare industry looks for ways to improve value based care. The global telemedicine market is expected to grow 14.3 percent each yearas hospitals, practices, and pharmacies expand their scope of care. Traditional pharmacies, including CVS and Walgreens, have already launched telemedicine programs that are designed to educate and connect patients with health resources. Both chains are expanding their services in 2016.

With computing equipment specially designed for healthcare, Onyx makes it easier for pharmacies, clinics, and hospitals to extend their reach and boost patient satisfaction. The new Pharmacy Plus includes two private rooms where patients can conduct teleconsulting sessions with a doctor via a smart view medical station. The stations feature integrated, high-definition, multipurpose diagnostic scopes that can capture images and collect readings with help from an onsite physician practitioner. These tools enable preliminary ENT, ultrasound, and dermatology exams, providing remote physicians with more information about the patient’s condition. In addition, pharmacists can teleconference directly with physicians on call for real-time joint counsel on treatment.

Better Patient Outcomes

With smart computing designed for healthcare, next generation pharmacies can improve patient outcomes and boost customer satisfaction. Telemedicine and computing stations that connect to EHR systems can help patients understand their medications and take them as prescribed, while enabling pharmacists to avoid adverse effects—and keep patients from returning to the hospital.

1. “The Revolving Door: A Report on U.S. Hospital Readmissions.” Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, February 2013, http://www.rwjf.org/content/dam/farm/reports/reports/2013/rwjf404178.

2. Grissinger, Matthew, “Reduce Readmissions With Pharmacy Programs That Focus on Transitions From the Hospital to the Community.” Pharmacy and Therapeutics, April 2015, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4378513/.

3. “Adoption of Electronic Health Record Systems among U.S. Non-Federal Acute Care Hospitals: 2008-2014.” Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, April 2015, https://www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/data-brief/2014HospitalAdoptionDataBrief.pdf.

4. “Five Telemedicine Trends Transforming Health Care in 2016.” The National Law Review, November 2015, http://www.natlawreview.com/article/five-telemedicine-trends-transforming-health-care-2016.