A national pharmacy chain has partnered with a medical school and a pharmacy school to open a store that will explore a new model for patient care. The “Walgreens at UCSF” store, located on the University of California, San Francisco campus, is reportedly designed to enable extensive communication between pharmacists and patients. Substantial numbers of people in the U.S. take prescription and over-the-counter medications on a daily basis, and medication errors are a significant cause of injuries and deaths. Various hospitals and other medical facilities are trying out different models of care in an effort to reduce the number of medication errors, and the severity of the injuries they may cause, as much as possible.
The central idea behind Walgreens at UCSF, like many other experimental programs, is the importance of communication between patients, physicians, and pharmacists. Few pharmacies are designed with one-on-one pharmaceutical counseling in mind, and pharmacists tend to remain in the back of the store. The store includes a 1,200-square-foot area with numerous private consultation areas, which pharmacists can use to meet with patients. UCSF describes a concierge desk where patients can check prescriptions and set up pharmacist consultations. Pharmacists employed by both the university and Walgreens will work side-by-side. Rather than simply dispensing medications, pharmacists would work with patients to help them understand how to take medications properly, and provide them with a better overall picture of their health.
According to UCSF, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), eighty-two percent of people in the U.S. take medication on a daily basis. Twenty-nine percent take at least five medications per day. Medication errors can occur at any stage of the treatment process, with doctors making a prescription error, pharmacies dispensing the wrong medication or wrong dosage, and patients not following the directions for their medication. UCSF cites statistics from the National Consumers League stating that three-fourths of Americans do not always follow medication instructions, while about one-third do not always take prescribed medications at all. Medication errors cause as many as 1.5 million injuries, 700,000 emergency room visits, and 7,000 deaths every year, at a cost of around $3.5 billion.