Prescription dispensing machine now available at hospital.

August 27, 2015
Left: Bob Budreau, foundation chairman; Kaley Petersen, foundation director; Dan Grimmer, InstyMeds; Ed Makowicki, hospital pharmacy director.

Left: Bob Budreau, foundation chairman; Kaley Petersen, foundation director; Dan Grimmer, InstyMeds; Ed Makowicki, hospital pharmacy director.

LUDINGTON — Patients who use the emergency department at Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital now have the option of obtaining select medications at the hospital, 24 hours a day, through a dispensing machine.

The machine was installed last week but made its official debut today during a press conference at the hospital. It is being funded by the hospital’s foundation and is being rented by the InstyMeds company based in Minneapolis.

Ed Makowicki, pharmacy director for hospital, said the primary goals are, “To have more patients actually fill and fully use their prescribed medications, and to supplement local pharmacies by allowing emergency patients to immediately obtain prescriptions at night when pharmacies are closed—typically after 10 p.m. The nearest 24-hour pharmacy is some 50 miles away.”

  Makowicki said research he has studied indicates that, overall about 30% of prescriptions are not filled and that the percentage is even higher for prescriptions for conditions treated in emergency rooms. This, he said, is a significant contributing factor in re-visits to the hospital for the same ailment.

  “Sadly, many patients do not follow through and go get their prescriptions filled,” he said. “We hope to counteract that by making it extremely convenient to get medications on the spot. When people have to wait for a pharmacy to open they often decide to rely just on the doctor’s initial treatment. Following through on the antibiotic, pain or other medication is a crucial part of the treatment.”

  The hospital will be dispensing medications primarily for treatment of short-term illnesses.  Makowicki said he sees the hospital system as complementing the essential work of local pharmacies, not competing with them.

  “This may actually increase business for pharmacies by encouraging more people to use their prescriptions,” he added. “Most prescriptions will still be filled by pharmacies, including long-term refillable prescriptions for chronic conditions.”

  Kaley Petersen, director of the Spectrum Health Ludington Foundation, said the foundation board members were enthusiastically behind the project.

  “This is one of the first programs funded under the endowment created within the local hospital foundation as a result of joining the Spectrum Health system,” Petersen said.

  “We think our InstyMeds system will significantly contribute to treatment and quick recovery of emergency patients. We obviously provide medications for patients who are admitted to the hospital. But those who are treated and released often want to get home as soon as possible and often don’t make the extra trip to fill their prescription. Immediately filling prescriptions for such patients is a vital extension of our physicians’ treatment.”

  Petersen said the foundation board has pledged to cover all costs, approximately $1,200 per month for a three-year contract with InstyMeds. Revenues from the system will go back to the foundation to defray expenses. If the system ever produces revenues that exceed the cost, those funds can be used to expand the InstyMeds program or support other patient-care programs underwritten by the foundation.

  A key feature is the phone attached to the dispenser. Picking it up will instantly connect the patient to a team of technicians and pharmacists in Minnesota who can answer questions and take information for those with prescription insurance coverage. The phone cannot be used for other calls.

  Makowicki added that the machine will initially be stocked with 50-60 common medications specified by hospital physicians. Capacity is sufficient to add other medications doctors later decide would be useful.

The equipment is located in an alcove near the hospital’s emergency entrance. This, Petersen said, will protect patient privacy and confidentiality, especially for those who use the phone to confer with the InstyMeds staff.

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