WILKES-BARRE and DANVILLE, Pa. – Eric Wright, Wilkes University associate professor of pharmacy practice, is the principal investigator on a $600,000 research grant from the National Association of Chain Drugstores Foundation to expand the role of community pharmacists within the health care team. Wright will partner with Geisinger Health System and participating pharmacies in central and northeastern Pennsylvania in conducting the study.
“This research is focused on how we can expand the role of the pharmacist to reduce the rate of 30-day readmissions among high-risk patients,” said Wright, principal investigator, who holds a joint appointment as a faculty member in the Nesbitt School of Pharmacy at Wilkes and research investigator at Geisinger's Center for Health Research. “Our goal is to significantly reduce the percentage of patients readmitted with high-risk conditions, such as heart attack, pneumonia, heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”
According to the Medpac Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, about 17 percent of Medicare patients are readmitted to the hospital within 30 days due to various causes. PriceWaterhouse Coopers’ Health Research Institute estimates that readmissions cost the United States between $15 and $25 billion annually.
Wright explained that many of these readmissions are preventable and due to medication errors, adverse reactions to medication or lack of adherence. He believes these readmissions can be avoided by using the community pharmacist-patient relationship to maximize patient education and add an additional check to the health care system.
According to the most recent Gallup poll, community pharmacists are recognized by the public as one of the most ethical and honest professionals, and are generally among the most trusted people in a community. Pharmacists have personal relationships with patients and are more accessible than hospital and primary care physicians.
Wright and his team are convinced that leveraging the existing pharmacist-patient relationship can increase medication awareness. Despite the relationship, however, community pharmacists often lack access to patient records, preventing the full understanding of a patient’s underlying condition. He will study whether increasing the communication and information between community pharmacists and other members of a patient’s health care team will improve overall care.
Wright will analyze what he calls a “warm handoff,” which occurs when a hospital pharmacist forwards a discharged patient’s medical information to the patient’s preferred pharmacist. Provided with this information, the community pharmacist can better evaluate a patient’s medication needs. The pharmacist can then perform an extra consultation with the patient to ensure he or she understands prescription information, when and how to take the drug and its possible side effects. As part of the study, communication between the community pharmacist and the patient’s physician also will increase so that both remain aware of the patient’s condition and can adjust prescription doses as necessary.
The study will begin enrolling patients in the fall of 2014 and is scheduled to continue through 2015. Results of the study are expected to be available in 2016.
Wright’s research focus lies in studying new ways to combat medication non-adherence through the redeployment of system resources and evaluation of unique health information technologies integrated into the electronic health record.
About Wilkes University
Wilkes University is an independent institution of higher education dedicated to academic and intellectual excellence through mentoring in the liberal arts, sciences and professional programs. Founded in 1933, the university provides its students with the experience, mentoring and education necessary for career and intellectual development as well as personal growth. Named one of the fastest-growing universities in the United States by The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wilkes offers the doctor of nursing practice, doctor of education and doctor of pharmacy degrees and more than a dozen master’s degree programs, including the master of business administration and master of fine arts in creative writing. For more information, visit www.wilkes.edu
Geisinger Health System is an integrated health services organization widely recognized for its innovative use of the electronic health record, and the development of innovative care models such as ProvenHealth Navigator® and ProvenCare®. As one of the nation’s largest rural health services organizations, Geisinger serves more than 2.6 million residents throughout 44 counties in central and northeastern Pennsylvania. The physician-led system is comprised of more than 21,000 employees,including a 1,100-member multi-specialty group practice, eight hospital campuses, two research centers and a 467,000-member health plan, all of which leverage an estimated $7.4 billion positive impact on the Pennsylvania economy. The health system and the health plan have repeatedly garnered national accolades for integration, quality and service. In addition to fulfilling its patient care mission, Geisinger has a long-standing commitment to medical education, research and community service. For more information, visit www.geisinger.org, or follow the latest Geisinger news and more on Twitter and Facebook.