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Pharmacist-Led Discharge Program Cuts Readmissions 46%

 |  By Philip Betbeze  
   January 23, 2015

An initial partnership with a relatively small Indiana hospital begat Walgreens' WellTransitions program, which has shown a 46% reduction in unplanned hospital readmissions for the patients who use it.

Seven years ago, Marion General Hospital, which is actually a health system with multiple locations in two counties in Marion, Indiana, had no idea of the eventual implications of its decision to sell its pharmacy to Walgreen's in 2007.

For the record, neither did the retail chain with more than 8,200 stores.

Nevertheless, that move was the catalyst for a major reduction in preventable readmissions for the health system, and ultimately, a new line of business for the national drugstore chain.

The pharmacy, located across the street from Marion General's main hospital in the system's ambulatory surgery building, was the birthplace for what eventually became WellTransitions, a contractual relationship by which Walgreen's works directly with hospital staff on medication reconciliation, education, take-home prescription fulfillment, and follow-up for patients about to be discharged.

An April 2014 study, in which the chain researched 744 matched pairs of WellTransitions patients and non-patients retrospectively to evaluate the effectiveness of the program, found that program patients were 46% less likely to experience an unplanned hospital readmission within 30 days than the control group. But that came much later.

In 2010, the head pharmacist at the location, Steve Kroh, who had previously been a Marion General employee, came to discuss the beginnings of what would become WellTransitions with Marion General's leadership team, including Bernadine Wallace, MSN, RN, who is the health system's chief nursing and operating officer.

Philip Betbeze is the senior leadership editor at HealthLeaders.

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