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Prevent Errors That Draw the New Medicare Hospital Payment Penalty

By October 1, 2012

Discussing prescriptions with an elderly patientThe first day of federal fiscal year 2012 also marks the first time hospitals in the United States will face penalties for having high percentages of Medicare patients readmitted for treatment within 30 days of being discharged.

That won't be news for any health-system pharmacists or pharmacy technicians, nor to anyone who has been following developments in Medicaid since the middle of the last decade or the steady implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act since 2010.

While not surprising, seeing the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services withhold payments for measures taken to return patients to health following severe medication adverse events or hospital-acquired infections should refocus all health care practitioners on the need to identify, resolve and prevent mistakes that can harm patients.

For pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, of course, this means making sure patients receive all the right drugs and nutrient supplements in the right doses at the right times during hospital stays. When patients prepare to return home, pharmacy staff must ensure that individuals have adequate supplies of needed medications and understand fully how to take them. Predischarge medication reviews, reconciliations and counseling are key components of medication therapy management services in the hospital setting.

Participating in health system-affiliated accountable care organization and medical home programs can allow pharmacists and technicians to exercise the broadest scope of their drug therapy expertise and counseling services.

Detailing steps and strategies to protect hospital and recently discharged patients for medication errors is beyond the cope of this blog post. A good place to start finding that information is the Institute for Safe Medication Practices' tools and resources webpage.

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