UVM Medical Center Pharmacy Program Improves Patient Care and Safety
Hospital Emerges as a National “Meds to Beds” Leader, Helping Patients Understand Their Medications Before They Return Home
BURLINGTON, Vt. – An innovative pharmacy program at the University of Vermont Medical Center that focuses on helping patients understand their medications has emerged as a national leader.
Through the “Meds to Beds” Program, pharmacists and case managers are part of a collaborative team that translates a patient’s care plan into easy-to-follow instructions, helps plan how medications will fit into their home life, and identifies any financial barriers to the medication before they leave the hospital. Because the program involves a clinical team bringing medication to the bedside prior to patients being discharged from the hospital, rather than sending the patient or a family member to the pharmacy, it has proven especially useful during COVID-19.
“Meds to Beds was honestly wonderful. It was so helpful to have the program because bedside counseling by a pharmacist helped to instill confidence in my discharge treatment regimen,” said Lauren Broe, a patient from Addison County who has been able to utilize the program.
Helping patients understand their treatment
The increased complexity of pharmacotherapy regimens used in modern medicine has made it harder for patients to understand and follow their treatment. Research has shown that fewer than 50 percent of patients know what medications they will be taking when discharged from an inpatient setting. Further, fewer than 50 percent of patients take their medication as prescribed when discharged. The Meds to Beds initiative aims to enhance patient satisfaction around the discharge process, improve efficiency and the collaborative nature of care transitions, and create a culture of safety around discharge medications.
“Our teams have taken the concept of this program and vastly improved it by allowing physicians, pharmacists, nurses and case workers to work in concert to offer more personal care and instruction to our patients. It has allowed us to provide safer and more personalized care to our patients and is helping to improve health outcomes,” said Christina Oliver, vice president of clinical services at UVM Medical Center.
Reducing readmissions, preventing medication errors
As part of the clinical team, pharmacists are often called upon by physicians to identify substitute medications, preferred alternatives, or creative alternatives. Case managers and pharmacists have also been able to identify cost barriers that patients face and make timely referrals to hospital health assistance programs, find co-pay assistance cards, or other pharmaceutical co-pay assistance programs.
The program has proven to be effective, and has helped reduce readmissions. Since the program's inception in 2019, UVM Medical Center pharmacists have prevented hundreds of medication errors – not only with dosing, but with drug interactions, therapeutic duplications and incorrect instructions.
“Our patients get a personal pharmacist consultant who provides education and counseling to them at the bedside on new and often essential cardiac medications, and this makes discharge that much safer,” said Carrie Mahurin, MD, a third-year resident at UVM Medical Center.
UVM Medical Center will present about its Meds to Beds Program and share data with other hospitals at a National Case Management Conference in June. Similar programs are now common at academic medical centers around the country. However, UVM Medical Center’s program has become a model for other organizations because of the unique teamwork that includes pharmacists and case managers. The program has exceeded original predictions in terms of participation, patient satisfaction, and safety interventions.
Meds to Beds and COVID-19
“The Meds to Beds Program has greatly supported many of our COVID-19 patients when they were ready to be discharged from the hospital. From an infection prevention standpoint, it also prevented our patients from having to enter their community pharmacies and reduced the risk of viral spread. It also took some burden off nurses and direct-care providers to ensure patients went home with the correct medications prior to even leaving. It’s great knowing there is such great multi-disciplinary teamwork happening to deliver the best care possible to such a vulnerable patient population,” said Katie Peters, RN, who worked on a COVID-19 unit at UVM Medical Center.
“The Meds to Beds Program has improved the transition from the inpatient setting to home hospice by ensuring that medications needed in the home for comfort will immediately be available to our community hospice nurses. It has also eliminated the need for a family member to pick up and transport those medications from the hospital pharmacy during a very vulnerable time, thus relieving them from that additional responsibility in a time when they should focus on family and togetherness,” said Kelly Fridinger, RN, the clinical hospice nurse liaison for the UVM Health Network.
About the University of Vermont Medical Center
The University of Vermont Medical Center is a 499-bed tertiary care regional referral center providing advanced care to approximately 1 million residents in Vermont and northern New York. Together with our partners at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont and the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, we are Vermont’s academic medical center. The University of Vermont Medical Center also serves as a community hospital for approximately 150,000 residents in Chittenden and Grand Isle counties. The University of Vermont Medical Center is a member of The University of Vermont Health Network, an integrated system established to deliver high quality academic medicine to every community we serve.