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Giving patients pills to take home at hospital discharge may cut readmissions

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To try  to reduce the number of hospital readmissions, many hospitals across America across America are starting “meds to beds” and/or “meds in hand” programs in which patients get prescription drugs to take home with them just before they’re discharged.  Indeed a 2016 survey by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists found that about 35 percent of U.S. hospitals offer discharge prescriptions.

The Washington Post reports: “Many hospitals begin the meds-to-beds program with a single department, such as cardiology or transplant medicine, see how well it works and then add more.”

“And once Medicare acted {to penalize hospitals for what deems excessive readmissions}, other insurers began levying penalties for early readmission as well,”  Joshua Seidman, a senior vice president at the health-care consulting firm Avalere, told The Post. Thus many hospitals have started “transitions of care” programs that link patients with such post-discharge services  as follow-up physician visits and medications to be used at home.

“Data published this year by the Kaiser Family Foundation suggests such efforts work: Hospital readmissions have fallen since 2012, although how much can be attributed to the new prescription programs isn’t broken out by Kaiser. Tricia Neuman, senior vice president and director of Kaiser’s program on Medicare policy, told The Post: “For older patients with complex medical conditions or dementia, taking their drugs, as prescribed, can be a serious challenge unless they have the support they need once they get home. Programs that target patients as they transition from one setting to another can help avoid preventable U-turns to the emergency room or hospital — which could lead to better patient care and lower costs.”

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