Lead pharmacist Tracey Murrish

Lead pharmacist Tracey Murrish, right, meets with patient Jim Ryan, of Jordan, to go over his medication before he is discharged from Billings Clinic in late July.

Had Jim Ryan had his knee replacement surgery even a year ago, the first day or so of his recovery could’ve been very different.

There’s no pharmacy in Jordan, where he lives, and he probablywould’ve had to find a pharmacy in Billings to get his prescriptions filled after being discharged from Billings Clinic, not to mention finding a place to go for refills.

Instead, thanks to a program called Meds to Beds rolled out at the clinic last December, Ryan filled his prescription and had a one-on-one consult with a pharmacist before he even left his hospital room.

“It really helped a lot because it usually takes about three hours to get something like this sorted out at a pharmacy,” he said. “It’s a real handy deal for us to get our prescriptions right away and not wait.”

The program sends a pharmacist from the clinic to a patient’s bedside just before they’re discharged, where they bring prescriptions directly to the patient and take time to speak with them directly about the medications.

It’s an effort that has clinic staff excited — it helps ensure patients receive, understand and properly use their prescriptions while allowing the pharmacist to pass on important, individualized information and cutting wait times — simply by sending a pharmacist directly to the patient.

“The old way was, ‘Here’s a prescription, go to your local pharmacy,’” said Kyle Townsend, Billings Clinic’s director of pharmacy services. “Now we’ve worked our way into the process and it’s gone exceptionally well. We’ve had a huge amount of positive feedback.”

Tracey Murrish is lead pharmacist at the clinic’s in-house Atrium pharmacy and helped develop the Meds to Beds program, which the hospital rolled out in December.

She’s one of two pharmacists who visit patients’ rooms to deliver and discuss prescriptions. During the visits, she might talk with patients about why they need specific medications, discuss use compliance, go over interactions with other medications and answer questions from the patient about side effects and dosage.

“It’s counseling in the room,” Murrish said. “It really provides a much better description to the patient. I average about 10 minutes per patient, but it’s really variable. Sometimes I’ll spend a lot more time with them.”

One of the more well-liked aspects of the program is the amount of time it saves for patients. Without it, they’d have to get their prescription and then head to a pharmacy, wait in line and get it filled, often by a pharmacy technician who can’t provide the same information as a pharmacist.

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That’s a process that can sometimes take hours — as Ryan noted, it might’ve taken him three hours to get it filled before going back to Jordan otherwise — but now can last just a few minutes with much more complete information.

“It’s been real good,” Ryan said. “It’s the first time I’ve got to meet the pharmacist and she was right there in my (hospital) room.”

Getting the medications to the patients with the correct information also helps ensure they’ll take them, and take them properly. Proper medication use can help prevent return hospital visits, which in turn can help reduce hospital readmission rates.

A Mayo Clinic study indicates that as much as 40 percent of patients don’t fill their prescriptions with a day of being discharged, Townsend said.

“For us, we know that at least if they walk out of here with it, there’s a 90 percent chance they’re going to take it,” he said. “There are issues of transportation, cost and waiting in line and we’re trying to address each one. There’s not really a lot of other programs or changes like this that are a win-win for everybody.”

In developing Meds to Beds, pharmacy staff looked at a number of similar programs across the country. Much of it is based off of that research, but with a twist.

“I have not heard of another model that utilizes the actual pharmacist,” Murrish said. “Usually, it’s a pharmacy tech for more of a delivery than a consultation.”

She estimated that Meds to Beds reaches about 50 hospital patients as they’re discharged each week.

The service isn’t yet available everywhere in Billings Clinic — it does stretch throughout four floors of the hospital’s main campus — but it’s something Townsend and others hope to continue to grow in the coming years.

For Ryan, he was glad it’s spread this far, getting him the information on how to use his prescription after a knee replacement and then receiving the medication before he even left his hospital room.

“It was just real easy,” he said. “I’d tell other people about it. They’ve got real nice people there at the hospital.”

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