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Sentara invests in pharmacy management company

After several months as a customer of NuScriptRX, a 4-year-old pharmacy management company based in Nashville, Tenn., Sentara Healthcare has purchased a 12 percent share in the company.

The company has developed a fully automated on-site medication dispensing system and a full-service centralized pharmacy system geared to the needs of long-term care facilities.

"We were so impressed. We've been a customer for less than a year and thought we could do something with this," said Sentara spokesman Dale Gauding. Norfolk-based Sentara operates nursing and assisted living facilities in South Hampton Roads, one in North Carolina, and Sentara Hampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Hampton.

Managing several Sentara facilities has been its first foray into Virginia for NuScriptRX, which now works with facilities in six states, said spokeswoman Mary Howard.

The automated system has two major applications for long-term care facilities, according to Gauding. Instead of the usual 30-day cycle for medications, it has a seven-day cycle. That can reduce waste by as much as 60 percent with a savings of 10 to 15 percent, according to Howard. She described the system as a safer, more reliable way of dispensing medications. "A lot of residents in (long-term care facilities) are on 10 to 16 different scrips a day," she said, outlining the NuScriptRX process that saves nurses time in sorting and handling the drugs.

A lot of medication changes take place in a long-term setting, Gauding said. A physician may change a prescription after 10 days, which then leaves a 20-day supply wasted. "With a seven-day cycle you're not throwing out drugs you don't use," he said. "Once they're in the system, it's not appropriate to re-prescribe them," he said.

The other applicable element comes in the after-hours administration of medications.

Long-term care patients can be admitted "at all hours of the day and night," Dan Haron, CEO of NuScriptRX, noted. Under the traditional system, an on-call pharmacist would have to be brought in to the pharmacy and then a courier would be dispatched to pick up the medication, a process that can take several hours. With NuScriptRX, up to 380 of the most commonly prescribed medications are kept on-site and can be dispensed considerably quicker, within 90 minutes.

Sentara's investment gives the health system a seat on the board of the pharmacy management company. "We saw an opportunity to improve medication safety in long-term care outside Sentara by investing in NuScriptX and advocating for them with other facilities," said Bruce Robertson, president of Sentara Life Care, which operates Sentara's nursing facilities.

Salasky can be reached by phone at 757-247-4784.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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