Does lower pharmacy density mean more hospital readmissions?

Researchers in the US have uncovered a correlation between pharmacy density and hospital readmissions.

While pharmacy density is not a single direct cause in itself, the researchers at the University of Oregon found that hospital readmission rates are higher in the state’s communities which have limited access to pharmacy services.

“Considerable efforts and research have gone toward determining programs to reduce readmission rates,” the authors write in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.

“One area of focus has been increasing access to care following hospitalizations by scheduling home health follow-up and primary care office visits.

“Pharmacy-led initiatives have included performing medication reconciliation and discharge medication counseling at the patient’s bedside. Discharge medication counseling has shown to increase adherence to new medications and medication changes made at hospital discharge.

“Community pharmacists can potentially reduce readmission rates, because they are uniquely positioned to assess medication adherence, provide education, and offer self-care recommendations.”

The authors say that as pharmacy services expand, efforts are needed to ensure that further disparities in these resources are not created.

“One study found that pharmacy access may be increasing disproportionately in urban areas owing to recent expansions in pharmacy services that offer walk-in clinics primarily in populous regions,” they write.

“This research also supports this and indicates that patients in rural communities have more barriers when accessing their medications. Increasing patients’ access to pharmacy services can increase patient care and potentially reduce readmission rates.

“There is insufficient research available examining the effect of pharmacy access on health outcomes in the United States. Additional studies are needed to answer several questions that remain.

“Future research should determine if the association between readmissions and pharmacy access observed in this study is present on a national level and how this affects health outcomes in rural communities.

“Studies should also examine whether rural residents have lower medication adherence compared with urban residents, and if this would be attributable to difficulty in obtaining their prescriptions.”

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