The last thing that Pat Stevenson wanted to do was stop at a pharmacy on her way home to fill her husband’s prescriptions when he was discharged from the hospital after a heart attack.
She was tired. She was ready to go home. She was daunted by the task of running an errand during the busy holiday season.Much to her surprise, UT Health offers a free bedside program to take care of prescriptions for patients. She didn’t have to drive to her local pharmacy.
“My husband, John, is a Vietnam veteran who usually gets his medication from the VA, but when he had a heart attack in December, we started getting some of the heart medications from UTMC,” Stevenson said. “I thought it was going to be a difficult transition, but UTMC has helped us save money on the prescriptions because UTMC puts people before money. That is rare in 2015.”
The iMEDS program (Medication Education Delivery Service) started as a pilot program on the cardiovascular floor of the hospital in April 2013 to help patients get their medications upon discharge. The program was so successful in its first few months that the hospital hired an additional pharmacist and two pharmacy technicians to roll it out hospital-wide by the end of 2013.
Year to date, iMEDS has helped 3,508 patients with a total of 9,141 prescriptions. This is on track to surpass 2014 when 2,741 patients were helped with 7,340 prescriptions filled.
“Our overall goal is to provide a convenient service for our patients and get them the medication they need at discharge, which keeps them healthy and prevents another hospital readmission,” said Holly Smith, pharmacy manager at the outpatient pharmacy. “The patients love it. They love the convenience of our service because they can leave the hospital with their medications.”
Smith said patients and families like not having to make another trip to their pharmacy on their way home. They also like being able to ask face-to-face questions with a pharmacist when the medication is delivered to their rooms.
“Some medications require in-depth counseling,” Smith said. “We may have to demonstrate to a patient how to give themselves an injection.”
The other benefit is that if there are insurance problems, the outpatient pharmacy staff will look for alternative medications that are covered or find manufacturer discount cards. While the iMEDs service is free, the medications are billed to the patient’s insurance company, just like at any other local pharmacy.
iMEDS also has led to an uptick in sales at the outpatient pharmacy. Patients who utilize iMEDS often return for refills.
“We make follow-up phone calls to patients who are scheduled for a refill,” Smith said. “We offer to transfer the prescription if that is what the patient wants to ensure they continue on their prescribed medication.”
In the future, Smith would like to expand the program by creating a follow-up program for patients where they can sit with a pharmacist to review their current medications and make sure everything is going smoothly.
“I am passionate about patient care. I love helping other people,” Smith said. “This program has been self-rewarding and self-fulfilling. I know that we are doing great things in the outpatient pharmacy, and our staff is dedicated to improving the health of our patients by offering convenient patient-centered services.”