Rowell Daniels, Emily Hawes, Jamie Cavanaugh, Nicole Pinelli, and Stephen Eckel
Rowell Daniels, Emily Hawes, Jamie Cavanaugh, Nicole Pinelli, and Stephen Eckel

Pharmacists and physicians at UNC Hospitals created a pilot clinic that reduced thirty-day readmission rates for its patients by 65 percent and is now projected to save the hospital $1.1 million per year.

This innovation has earned UNC Hospitals a fourth consecutive Best Practices Award from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. The clinics were set up by faculty from the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and the UNC School of Medicine to schedule follow-up visits for patients recently discharged from the hospital.

Reducing Readmissions

Hospital readmissions cost the U.S. health-care system an estimated $17.4 billion a year. More than 2,000 hospitals across the country are expected to face penalties this year for high readmission rates.

Many of these readmissions are due to preventable complications with medication.

“This award highlights the critical role pharmacists can play in the outpatient management of patients after discharge,” says Emily Hawes, PharmD, a clinical pharmacist and an assistant professor of clinical education at the pharmacy school.

To reduce readmission rates at UNC Hospitals, a team of pharmacists, physicians, and social workers created programs at UNC Internal Medicine and UNC Family Medicine Clinic that scheduled follow-up visits for patients within fourteen days of discharge. One of their goals was to identify and resolve medication-related problems.

By including a pharmacist in the hospital follow-up visit, the readmission rate to the hospitals was reduced from 26 percent to 9 percent.

One hospital readmission was prevented for every seven patients that walked into the clinic.

“Patients don’t want to come back to the hospital, and we don’t want them to if we can prevent it,” says Jamie Cavanaugh, PharmD. Cavanaugh is a clinical pharmacist and an assistant professor of clinical education at the School who oversees the efforts at UNC Internal Medicine.

“At UNC we’ve shown that a multidisciplinary health-care team working together can cut readmissions by almost two-thirds. That saves time, saves money, and saves the patient and their family from another hospital stay,” she says.

Four Straight Best Practices Awards

The Best Practices Award is given by the ASHP to health-care providers that develop innovative techniques that improve patient care.

This is the fourth consecutive year that UNC Hospitals have won this award.

“The fact that we have won this award four years in a row demonstrates that we are innovative, and always willing to reevaluate the impact of our model in order to serve patients better,” says Stephen Eckel, PharmD, MHA, associate director of pharmacy at UNC Hospitals and a clinical associate professor at the School.

Winners of the ASHP Best Practices Award will present their findings at the 2014 ASHP midyear meeting in Anaheim, California, December 7 to 11.

The following UNC faculty comprise the authors of the paper describing the award-winning project:

  • Jamie Cavanaugh, PharmD, is an assistant professor of clinical education at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and an assistant professor at the UNC School of Medicine in the Division of General Medicine.
  • Emily Hawes, PharmD, is a clinical pharmacist at the UNC Family Medical Center, an assistant professor of clinical education at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, and a clinical assistant professor at the UNC School of Medicine.
  • Nicole Pinelli, PharmD, MS, is a clinical assistant professor in the Division of Practical Advancement and Clinical Education at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Pinelli is also a pharmacy clinical specialist in outcomes research in the Department of Pharmacy at UNC Hospitals.
  • Stephen Eckel, PharmD, MHA, is the associate director of pharmacy at UNC Hospitals and vice chair of graduate and postgraduate education for the Division of Practice Advancement and Clinical Education at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.
  • Michael Pignone, MD, MPH, is a professor of medicine and chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine at the UNC School of Medicine.
  • Mark Gwynne, DO, is an assistant professor and medical director at the UNC Family Medicine Center.
  • Rowell Daniels, PharmD, MS, is the associate dean for clinical practice at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and director of pharmacy at UNC Hospitals.

By Aren Besson

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