Founded in 1860, Denver Health Hospital has a unique opportunity and responsibility as Colorado’s primary safety-net institution to provide access to the highest quality healthcare regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. The rise of the COVID-19 pandemic did not prevent us from providing life-saving medications and pharmacy services to our unique population of patients, including underinsured, uninsured, pregnant teens, persons addicted to alcohol, and other substances, victims of violence, and those who are homeless.
Given that these extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures, our outpatient pharmacies along with the Central Fill Pharmacy, Pharmacy by Mail, and Outpatient Pharmacy Call Center services quickly responded by implementing alternatives including curbside service, home delivery, mail order shipping, and personalized outbound calls to thousands of patients offering these services. While some processes were established and quickly adapted when situations changed, other processes were employed secondary to Lean Rapid Improvement Events that had taken place in late 2019. What started as a necessary step to support social distancing and Colorado’s shelter-in-place order, mailing prescriptions directly to patients’ homes continues to be successful with four times as many patients as last year continuing to use the service. For patients who still desire to pick up their prescriptions in person, our Central Fill Pharmacy flexed and adapted by doubling daily prescription deliveries to our busiest pharmacies. To ensure that our outpatient pharmacy teams could focus on patients with the most acute needs, our Outpatient Pharmacy Call Center made changes to improve call answer rates by 32%.
To ensure the safety of our patients and pharmacy staff during COVID-19, we formed a pharmacy runner program for our outpatient pharmacies. Denver Health responded quickly and efficiently by forming a team consisting of multiple departments where a pharmacy runner program was compiled, piloted, and implemented into each of our eight outpatient pharmacies.
This program consisted of using furloughed Denver Health employees to “run” prescriptions to patients’ cars and socially distanced points outside of the buildings. Patients did not have to enter the building where there could be potential exposure to COVID-19. Patients were now not afraid to pick up their medications and, subsequently, more were more adherent to their medication regimens.
Meds to Beds
To ensure the safety of our patients being discharged from their hospital stay, a Medication Delivery program was created. The project received senior leadership approval in April, and the first unit was rolled out in May. The program is supported by Denver Health's electronic health system-based workflows that allow both nursing and pharmacy staff to access live updates on the status of the prescription. The program launched with great success; enrollment for the first month was 88%. We are currently in the process of rolling the program out to the remaining hospital units.
We are very proud of the work accomplished by the Denver Health Pharmacy team and all of the support teams that made these changes possible. These new program's success hinged on the fact that Denver Health as an organization worked together to put patient and employee safety first. We are proud and honored to be a part of a mission-driven organization with such high values and standards.
Michael Palkimas is assistant director, Ambulatory Retail Pharmacy Services at Denver Health.
Posted April 1, 2021