“Meds to beds” programs prevent rehospitalization

With bedside delivery, patients leave with meds in hand

More and more pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in health systems across the country are hand-delivering prescriptions to hospital patients’ bedsides before they are discharged, ensuring they leave with medication in hand. “Meds to beds” programs are aimed at easing patients’ transition back to real life after a hospital stay, avoiding readmissions, and improving outcomes.

Bedside delivery provides an opportunity for pharmacy staff to answer patients’ questions and ensure they understand how to take their medications correctly—a service that is crucial for patients with complex conditions requiring multiple medications that come with confusing instructions.

There are other benefits. “Our pharmacy staff identifies any potential barriers to compliance and helps find solutions,” said Maja Gift, MHA, RPh, CPh, administrator of pharmacy services at Tampa General Hospital (TGH) in Tampa, FL. “The pharmacy team coordinates prior authorizations to avoid [interruption] in therapy and facilitates access to medication assistance programs if patients cannot afford their medications.”

“[TGH] found that communication with the nursing team and discharge coordinators was critical. Our meds to beds team members were assigned to patient care units and participated in daily huddles to get a heads-up on what patients planned to go home that day,” Gift said.

Pharmacists who participate in bedside delivery also coordinate with outpatient pharmacists and call discharged patients to follow up and resolve issues that arise once they have returned home.

“The hospital discharge is a very fluid time for patients and medical staff, so making sure the medication list is complete and accurate before delivering it to the patient is crucial to the success of the program. Timing of the process can be further complicated by competing priorities, such as early discharge initiatives to improve bed capacity,” said Danielle Blais, PharmD, BCPS-AQ, an inpatient pharmacist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center (OSUWMC) in Columbus, OH.

Blais and Gift advise health systems looking to provide bedside delivery services to take it slow. “By starting small, we have been able to work out the kinks in the process and expand it from a few select services to services throughout our main campus and now to our community hospital, even though they are not at the same location, with a fairly quick turnaround time,” Blais said.

“Piloting the service on a single unit worked very well for us. It helped define what resources we would need to grow the program, and the information from the pilot was used to develop our proposal for housewide implementation,” Gift agreed.