About 1 in 5 Medicare patients who leave the hospital come back within 30 days. National Public Radio (NPR) reports those return trips cost U.S. taxpayers a lot of money — more than $17 billion a year.

To help tackle this problem, Washington Adventist Hospital teamed up with Walgreens to help ease the transition for patients from hospital to home with the WellTransitions Program.

The service, provided by Walgreens, connects patients with pharmacists who act as coaches.

Dr. Jeffrey Kang, a vice president at Walgreens, describes the new role to NPR as “our grandfather’s Walgreens on steroids.” Walgreens contracts with hospitals to eliminate conflicting prescriptions on discharge, and then the pharmacy will check back with patients to make sure they understand all their medications and take them properly when they get home.

“Getting people well, and helping them stay well is our number one priority,” said Dr. Randall Wagner, Chief Medical Officer at Washington Adventist Hospital. “Telephonic follow up with patients after they have been discharged is proven to be a good support resource in achieving long term wellness, and preventing readmissions.”

The WellTransitions program offers a number of services, including:

  • Medication review – pharmacists review patients’ prescriptions upon admission to the hospital and at discharge; check for possible duplication of therapy and simplify medication regimen
  • Bedside medication delivery – Walgreens pharmacy staff member delivers medication to patient’s room and offers additional counseling as needed
  • Patient counseling – pharmacists provide medication counseling to both the patient and caregiver and work in close communication with the medical staff
  • Regularly-scheduled follow-up calls – pharmacists conduct regular calls to follow up on patient progress, discuss regimen and answer any questions or concerns
  • 24/7 pharmacist support – pharmacy staff is available to answer patient questions 24/7 either over the phone or online

Pharmacists also work with patients to ensure they’ve scheduled an appointment with their primary care physician and reinforce important self-care principles, such as checking their weight daily and reporting any significant fluctuations to their doctor.

Listen to NPR’s reporting of the WellTransitions program here, or read the story here.