A lot goes on behind the scenes of getting needed prescription medications in the right amount to the right people in the right amount of time. When it comes time to transition to an assisted living community, there can be some questions as to how to ensure that needed medications are readily available for the new resident. To understand the options of pharmaceuticals in the assisted living setting, it is important to understand the scope of responsibility that assisted living communities have and what they can and cannot do.
Assisted Living Communities Cannot Provide Medical Care
For the most part, assisted living communities provide assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs). They are not licensed to provide medical care, but may help with administering the right doses of medications. They do not have onsite pharmacy care; however, some communities may have a separate building or wing within a building set up as a skilled nursing facility that does dispense medicines. Assisted living communities often partner with pharmaceutical distributors to deliver resident medications and allow them to set up private online accounts for refills and payment options.
Assisted living communities are not intended for residents who need considerable amounts of care. As a result, their licensing limits them on their scope of responsibility, and prescriptions are one of those limitations. Skilled nursing facilities, aka nursing homes, are required by law to have regulated pharmacy services with a licensed pharmacist to provide dispensing and consulting services to residents. However, many seniors who choose assisted living communities still have pharmaceutical needs and may rely on local community pharmacies to independently meet their personal prescription needs.
Long term Pharmacy Care
There is a growing trend in the smaller retail pharmacies towards focusing on developing new opportunities to serve clients, such as medication synchronization and medication therapy management. This comes in the face of pharmacy giants threatening to eliminate their places in communities while the population of elderly continues to rise. The demand for long term pharmacy care is expected to rise as chronic health conditions dramatically increase in the next few years. For instance, according to researchers with the McKesson Corporation, a pharmaceutical distributor, there were around 9 million seniors age 65 and older in 2012 who required long term care services. By the year 2020, they estimate no less than 12 million seniors will be depending on daily prescriptions to manage their chronic health conditions.
As a result of the rising demand, the market for long term care and also long term pharmacy care is burgeoning. Managed Health Care Associates is an organization that aims to provide the highest quality patient care through the education of healthcare workers and to provide consulting services that streamline the caregiving profession, including pharmaceutical options for residents of assisted living and skilled nursing facilities.
What Long term Pharmacy Care Looks Like for the Bottom Line
Long term pharmaceutical options mean a wide-reaching reduction in health care costs despite the estimated surge in demand. This is because when long term care is provided, costs typically go down due to a higher profit margin than the major corporation chains. For instance, the average resident receives 12 prescriptions on a daily basis. There is an average of 80-100 residents at any given time with an average of 10-13 communities being serviced. In addition to that, there is a lower rate of "bad-debt write-off" and delivery costs are minimal. This adds up to a cost savings that trickles down to residents.
Another promising aspect of long term pharmacy care is the solution it may present to reducing the swollen hospital re-admissions problem seniors face. The Affordable Care Act created the Readmission Reduction Program (RRP) to address the high rate of sending seniors back to the hospital within 30 days of their discharge. While the RRP imposes fines on hospitals for high "avoidable" readmission rates, this program has placed a high emphasis on medication reconciliation and patient/caregiver counseling, one of the major sources of readmissions for the elderly. This has opened the door to long term care pharmacies to provide extended medication monitoring. Assisted living facility residents and their families now have a resource to aid them in transitioning back home from the hospital without facing costly readmission hospital bills.
This cost savings trickles up to the major distributors like PharMerica and Omnicare. PharMerica already is acquiring small long term care and home infusion pharmacies, according to Nasdaq analysts, who say PharMerica has strong value, growth, and momentum as a key player in the stock market.
When choosing an assisted living community to call home, it is important to look at who the pharmacy provider is. It is important to choose a community committed to providing the highest quality of patient-centered services. This includes a spectrum of services from the availability of generic medications to the way they are packaged to the way the facility provides education and counseling services to residents, their families, and to community staff members for the dispensing of medications and follow up care after doctors' appointments and hospitalizations.
Hubbard, T., and McNeill, N. (October 2012). Improving Medication Adherence and Reducing Readmissions. New England Healthcare Institute (NEHI). Available at http://www.nacds.org/pdfs/pr/2012/nehi-readmissions.pdf. Last visited May 30, 2016.
McKesson Alternate Site Pharmacy. (2015). Becoming a Long Term Care Pharmacy. McKesson Corporation. (Available at http://becomeahealthmart.com/Websites/becomeapharmacy/images/Whitepaper-Becoming_a_long term_Care_Pharmacy.pdf. Last Visited May 30, 2016.
Zacks Equity Research. (May 18, 2016). PharMerica, AbbVie, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Habit Restaurants and Shake Shack Highlighted as Zacks Bull and Bear of the Day. Nasdaq. Available at http://www.nasdaq.com/article/pharmerica-abbvie-red-robin-gourmet-burgers-habit-restaurants-and-shake-shack-highlighted-as-zacks-bull-and-bear-of-the-day-cm622820. Last visited May 30, 2016.