Published on September 18, 2015

Cape Cod Healthcare opens first community pharmacy

Cape Cod Healthcare opens first community pharmacy

You won’t find milk, eggs, best-selling books, make-up or batteries at this drug store. The new pharmacy at Stoneman Outpatient Center in Sandwich is purely about the medicine.

Open to the public, Cape Cod Healthcare’s first-ever community pharmacy reflects a nationwide trend to improve patient care and reduce costly admissions—and readmissions—to hospitals.

“It’s about a continuum of care,” explained pharmacist Angela Medeiros, who manages the Stoneman pharmacy.

Hundreds of people pass through the Sandwich outpatient center on Sebastian Drive each day. They come to the urgent care clinic or to see other primary care physicians and specialists, who may write more than 100 prescriptions a day.

Opening a community pharmacy means “we can have our patients’ prescriptions ready before they leave the premises,” said Medeiros, who previously managed the employee-only pharmacy at Cape Cod Hospital.

“We’re trying to eliminate barriers for them so they can get their medications without hassles and also learn how to safely take them.”

The pharmacy staff will be on hand to consult with individual patients. For those with multiple prescriptions from more than one doctor, they will make sure those prescriptions won’t adversely interact with one another.

For example, patients taking the blood thinner warfarin can have a dangerous reaction if they are simultaneously prescribed an antibiotic.

Medeiros said the pharmacy staff also works with other specialists at Cape Cod Healthcare to help patients with insurance issues related to their prescriptions. The new pharmacy honors most insurance carriers.

But Medeiros has set an even loftier goal for the pharmacy. With her colleagues, she hopes to build long-term relationships with patients so they will come back for refills.

“It’s a more intimate environment than chain pharmacies, and the patients can expect to get to know and trust their pharmacist,” she said.

While other hospitals across the country are partnering with giant drug store chains like Walgreens, Cape Cod Healthcare has chosen to do so independently.

By locating its first outpatient pharmacy beyond the hospital walls, Cape Cod Healthcare can better serve a fast-growing, diverse population that no longer has to travel to Falmouth or Hyannis for emergency and urgent care, even same-day surgical procedures.

Based on what it learns at Stoneman, Cape Cod Healthcare may open other community pharmacies elsewhere on the Cape; Fontaine Outpatient Center in Harwich could be next.

Medications are playing a far more active role in the continuum of care—from the hospital to the home or an outpatient setting—than ever before, notes Pharmacy Times, an industry news service.

“Upon discharge, the patient should have an updated medication list, an understanding of the medication regimen, and their medication already filled,” Dr. Stephen Eckel, a Pharmacy Times editor, explained.

Douglas Scheckelhoff, vice president of practice management at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, observed that many hospitals are creating “discharge prescription programs” through their retail pharmacies. “It’s a very practical way to make sure the transition to the home is successful,” he told Health Leaders Media, a multimedia platform for healthcare professionals and executives.

Also underlying the trend is a value-based business rationale to better control the rising cost of drugs. From new cancer and hepatitis C drugs to generics, drug costs per admission at community hospitals have increased 63 percent from 2012 to 2015, according to data from the Lazarus Report, a pharmacy benchmarking survey firm.

The federal Health Resources and Services Administration has vastly expanded its audits of hospital accounting to require that drug manufacturers provide outpatient drugs to eligible health care organizations at significantly reduced prices.

Patient satisfaction is another factor. Seven of 32 measures on the federal Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems patient satisfaction survey are directly influenced by the pharmacy, especially communication about prescriptions.