St. Mark’s to implement medication program; Ecumen plans to help patients better understand their pills before going home

Published 10:36 am Monday, April 27, 2015

An Austin elderly care facility is looking to help people better manage their medication.

St. Mark’s is one of nine Minnesota sites implementing a $1.7 million grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) to improve medication management by the elderly with the intent to reduce hospital readmissions.

The new medication management program will be based on a pilot project started in 2013 at Ecumen Lakeshore in Duluth in partnership with Thrifty White Pharmacy. It was developed to ensure patients being discharged from rehabilitation care centers fully understand their medications and how to take them at home.

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“Taking medications as prescribed after leaving a care center can be a significant challenge for the elderly, especially when they are taking multiple drugs,” said Shelley Matthes, RN, director of quality improvement at Ecumen, in a press release. “We’re focusing on ways to expand the collaboration between patients and pharmacists to make sure people know when and how to take their medications and what to do if they have problems.”

The pilot program received the LeadingAge Minnesota’s “Leading Change Innovation Award” last year. Under the DHS grant, nine Ecumen-run rehabilitation centers, including St. Mark’s, will implement the program and measure results over the next three years.

As part of the discharge process, a nurse will do evaluations to make sure patients can read and understand their medication labels and can open the bottles before they go home. Then a nurse holds a meeting with the patients and their families to discuss any issues and initiates an interactive web-based session with a registered Thrifty White pharmacist. The pharmacist then explains to the patient and family how to take all the prescribed medications and answers questions.

The patient receives an action plan for medication management before discharge and a 30-day supply of medication through Thrifty White. Then the pharmacist follows up in three days for a check-in and does another follow-up in three weeks.

“Just making sure that patients fully understand the basics of their medications and how to take them reduces readmissions,” Matthes said in the release. “Often people are so glad to be going home that they have trouble focusing on anything else. The detailed discharge procedure, pharmacy education and the pharmacist’s follow-up all work to minimize mistakes or lapses in memory.”