Pharmacy Services Provide Convenience, Security for Patients and Staff
Chris Palamar recalls driving his wife home from Philadelphia on the day she’d undergone outpatient surgery.
“Her anesthesia was wearing off and we didn’t have any pain medicine for her,” he recounted. “That was a really long ride home.”
Had they been able to obtain the medications she needed before leaving the hospital, their trip home would have been much more comfortable and much less stressful, said Palamar, pharmacy manager at Penn State Health St. Joseph.
Measures taken recently by St. Joseph have eliminated the need to leave the hospital without necessary medications. Patients getting ready for discharge can even get the medications they need delivered right to their bedsides.
“It’s a nice option for patients,” said Palamar. “If we deliver their medicine to the bedside, they don’t need to stop on their way out of the hospital or on the way home. It gets them out of here and home a little bit faster, while assuring they have exactly what they need.”
The hospital began offering ambulatory pharmacy services to outpatients and employees in 2014. Patients coming to the hospital for outpatient services and inpatients about to be released can fill their prescriptions before leaving the building. Employees can get the medicines they need over their lunch breaks or before or after work.
“It’s just a retail pharmacy inside the hospital,” Palamar explained. “We fill a lot of prescriptions for same-day surgery patients who don’t want to have to stop somewhere else on their way home.”
While getting prescriptions filled inside the hospital is advantageous for patients and employees, it also is helpful to pharmacy employees.
For instance, a doctor might prescribe a medication for a patient whose insurance will not approve that particular drug. If a pharmacy worker discovers that before the patient has left, the employee can contact the doctor within the hospital and ask if a different drug can replace the one originally prescribed.
“A lot of insurance companies only cover one medicine within a class,” Palamar explained. “A doctor might prescribe a different drug that won’t be covered. If that happens, we can contact the doctor and explain.”
Also, making sure that patients get their prescribed medicines before leaving the hospital greatly increases the chances that they’ll actually have and take the drugs they need, said Sarah Goldsborough, a pharmacy resident currently working with Palamar.
“It’s assuring that they go home with all their meds and are one step closer to compliance,” Goldsborough said.
If an inpatient needs a medicine that requires pre-authorization from his insurance company, pharmacy staff will work on obtaining that prior to release so the prescription can be filled before the patient leaves.
Obtaining medicines in the hospital also makes it possible for pharmacy staff to make sure patients understand exactly how the medication is used.
Goldsborough recalled a recent occasion when a child who had been brought to the emergency department was given a prescription for an antibiotic. The parents were unclear of how much the child needed to be given, or how it was administered.
“Because they were right here, we could show them how to measure it out and dose it,” Goldsborough said.
If refills on the medication are required, patients can transfer the prescription to a pharmacy closer to home, if desired.
Although pharmacy staff is enthusiastic about filling patients’ prescriptions at the hospital, if the patient is worried about a co-pay or has another issue, staff members will look for a different place for the patient to get his medicine.
“If a co-pay is problematic or a patient is in the Medicare donut hole, we’ll work with them,” Palamar said. “We will send the patient somewhere else if it’s in their best interests.”
These types of pharmacy services are not unusual, Palamar explained, just convenient for the patient and smart for the hospital.
“This isn’t something new or revolutionary,” Palamar said. “It’s just another way of assuring that our patients get the very best care possible, and reduce the chances that they would need to be readmitted.”