Van Beuren Foundation renews grant for pharmacist home visits

URI-led program implemented through Visiting Nurse Services of Newport and Bristol Counties

KINGSTON, R.I., December 13, 2016 — The van Beuren Charitable Foundation has renewed funding for at-home pharmacist care implemented by the University of Rhode Island’s College of Pharmacy/Academic Health Collaborative in conjunction with Visiting Nurse Services of Newport and Bristol Counties.

The $78,519 grant from the Newport-based foundation was awarded to URI for the second year in a row to support Associate Clinical Professor Ginger Lemay’s work with the visiting nurse service in providing weekly home visits by a licensed pharmacist to high-risk patients following discharge from the hospital. The visiting nursing service identifies high-risk patients as those who take 10 or more medications or are prescribed drugs that require close management, such as anticoagulants, opioids or diabetes medicines. The pharmacist reviews the patient’s medications, counseling them on indications, dosage, storage, side effects and potential drug interactions, said Lemay.

Since the program began in February 2016, Lemay and her colleagues have collected data indicating lower hospital readmission rates and better adherence to medication regimens among the more than 100 patients visited. The group had an observed 30-day hospital readmission rate of just 12 percent, compared to the typical readmission rate of 65 percent for this high-risk population, she said.

“Preliminary data show it is having a great impact, and with this new funding we are looking at ways to sustain the program, illustrate the continued benefit and explore ways to make this a permanent service independent of grant funding,” Lemay said.

The program is unique to Rhode Island and the nation, and Lemay hopes to present her findings at national conferences for pharmacy and home health professionals in the spring.

Three pharmacists, including Lemay, share the caseload. Pharmacist Madeleine Ng of Providence, who participated last year as a URI postdoctoral fellow, has been joined this year by URI postdoctoral fellow Katherine Corsi, also of Providence.

Members of the home health teams work closely together, giving the pharmacists a new perspective on the expertise and approaches of other health care professionals, Lemay said. The pharmacists also benefit from working with patients in a new setting, she said. “Seeing patients in the home gives us a truer sense of how they are taking their medications,” Lemay said. The pharmacists often find that patients are more at ease asking questions and adhering to their medication regimens when speaking with a pharmacist in their home rather than at their community pharmacy.

Having pharmacists on the team also benefits the nurses. When they don’t have to focus on medication management, they can spend more time providing nursing care to the patient, Lemay said. In addition, patient surveys report high satisfaction with the pharmacist visits, she said.

“It’s a win-win. We love it, the nurses love it and the patients are benefiting,” she said. “The most fulfilling thing is seeing patients in the home. We can tailor what we do to their needs.”

This year, Lemay will focus on compiling and analyzing long-term data on patient hospital readmission rates, comparing these to rates for a group of patients who do not see pharmacists in their home. If the comprehensive data indicate a consistent benefit to patients, she hopes to show that the program pays for itself in reduced costs to the health care system and that it becomes a permanent feature of home care services.