To help patients stay on top of their medications, Kaweah Delta Medical Center opens a retail pharmacy

Kaweah Delta Pharmacy is at Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia.
Kaweah Delta Pharmacy is at Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia. lgriswold@fresnobee.com

Kaweah Delta Medical Center has opened a retail pharmacy at its downtown campus to give patients the option of getting their medications handed to them on their way out the door.

Having a pharmacy handy is expected to boost the number of patients who fill their prescriptions, said Dr. James McNulty, Kaweah Delta pharmacy director.

“This is about making sure our patients stay healthy,” he said. “If they choose our pharmacy, they will have prescriptions in hand before they leave the hospital.”

An estimated 30 to 45 percent of patients do not fill their prescriptions, according to studies, he said.

“When people who have been in the hospital do not fill prescriptions, there’s a pretty good chance they will be visiting the hospital again,” he said.

The reasons that patients may not get their prescriptions filled include affordability, lack of convenience and simply not feeling up to it, he said.

When people who have been in the hospital do not fill prescriptions, there’s a pretty good chance they will be visiting the hospital again.

James McNulty, Kaweah Delta pharmacy director

“You’re sick, you’re in pain,” he said. “The last thing you want to do is go get a prescription.”

But having the option to take home the medications straight from the hospital is something the medical center can easily do that would help those patients, he said. At Kaweah Delta, the name of the program to give patients the option to receive medications upon discharge is called RXDirect.

That includes a consultation with a pharmacist on how to properly take the medications, especially to avoid harmful drug interactions, he said. (About one-quarter of emergency room visits by the nonelderly involve “adverse drug events,” he said, while the number is 88 percent for visits by the elderly.)

Larger hospital systems are more likely to have a retail pharmacy than smaller hospitals, he said.

Opening a retail pharmacy is a trend among “progressive hospitals,” said Lindsay Mann, CEO of Kaweah Delta Health Care District. More than 30 percent of new pharmacies are owned by or affiliated with hospitals, he said.

In Fresno, Community Regional Medical Center has two retail pharmacies: Care Center Pharmacy at 1570 Herndon Ave. and the University Medical Center Pharmacy located at the Deran Koligian Ambulatory Care Center at 290 N. Wayte Lane.

Saint Agnes Medical Center does not have a retail pharmacy yet, but it is in the planning stages, said spokeswoman Kelley Sanchez.

Kaiser Permanente Fresno Medical Center has pharmacies at its hospital and medical office buildings, and has a pilot program to deliver medications to nursing stations for patients at discharge.

It’s expected that revenues will exceed expenses, but the purpose is to help patients, not harm the private sector, Kaweah Delta said.

I think it’s positive for the community. I say this with cautious optimism.

David Vermillion, Town Center Pharmacy

Independent pharmacist Dennis Vermillion, owner of Town Center Pharmacy in Visalia, said Kaweah Delta’s pharmacy likely will be additional competition, but he’s not worried about it.

“I think it’s positive for the community,” he said. “I say this with cautious optimism.”

McNulty said local pharmacies “may see an uptick” as patients are discharged with the medications and then get them refilled at their regular pharmacy. Kaweah Delta has no problem with patients transferring their prescriptions, he said.

The hospital pharmacy employs two pharmacists and two pharmacy technicians. The chief pharmacist is Sunny Bains, a graduate of Golden West High in Visalia.

He has a doctor of pharmacy degree from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy and has local retail experience at CVS and Walgreens.

The pharmacy is located next to the main downtown hospital at 202 W. Willow St., near the Locust Street entrance to the medical center.

The pharmacy is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.

Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold