Pharmacists Promote Adherence with Blister Packs


How pharmacies are providing better care for their patients.

Three pharmacies are finding that dispensing medications in blister packs is helping patients adhere to complicated drug regimens, which leads to improved outcomes and decreased costs to the health-care system.

The SureMed System from Omnicell Inc. helps patients organize multiple medications in an easy-to-follow format that gives patients visual reinforcement of what drugs to take and when to take them. The blister pack, which looks like a booklet, is perforated, so patients can remove a page after they’ve completed a day’s drug regimen. The program also provides opportunities for co-branding; pharmacies can add their logo to the front of the SureMed cards to raise their brand visibility.

“Retail pharmacies are under the crunch, fighting for survival,” said Alec Gillies, Pharmacy Manager at Buffalo Pharmacies, which operates three pharmacies in Western New York. “With decreased reimbursement and mail order [taking business away from pharmacies], we have to adapt … and look for a better way to survive. We have to find new ways to reinvent ourselves and gain new populations of patients,” while focusing on the wellbeing of patients and improving outcomes.

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In the Pittsburgh area, the ACORx (Adherence and Compliance Optimized) Pharmacy has taken the concept of adherence with blister packs to a new level. It is the third in the Hometown Pharmacy chain that includes two pharmacies that operate within groceries. But ACORx is dedicated to packaging and distributing medications through SureMed and has no in-store patient traffic.  

“We decided we wanted to build a business model around compliance packaging,” said owner Shawn Nairn, RPh. The pharmacy serves a population that is predominantly elderly, and its goal is to “improve the patient’s potential to stay at home.”

“One of the first steps to moving an elderly person to nursing home care is the inability to manage meds,” Nairn explained. “We also aim to reduce hospital readmissions, which usually occur within 30 days of discharge.”

At any given time, ACORx is packaging medications for around 1,000 patients. Most of the referrals come from home health-care agencies, hospitals, and nursing homes. All patients receive their medications through home delivery.

“We get compliments from caregivers thanking us for organizing their parents’ meds,” said Nairn. Now, when these children visit an elderly parent, they can spend quality time, rather than having to worry about their parents’ prescriptions.

Up next: The impact the packs are having


In Buffalo, about 25% to 30% of the elderly or assisted-living population served by the three-store chain receive medications through SureMed. Gillies is actively involved in marketing to local senior programs and nursing homes. “We describe our program from the caregiver perspective . . . how our approach can help to ease the burden,” he said. “And an important feature of our program is that we will deliver to the patient’s front door.”

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A regular service the pharmacy provides is follow-up with patients to ensure adherence. “We call and ask them if they’re running low, or how many pills they have left. If it appears that they have not used enough pills, we speak to them about the importance of compliance,” Gillies said.

At Bedard Pharmacy in Maine, fourth-generation pharmacist Chris Nadeau, PharmD, has received positive feedback from prescribers after the implementation of the SureMed System. The pharmacy, which has several locations, has one store dedicated to SureMed packaging. About 200 patients currently receive their prescriptions at that location, and the number is growing, said Nadeau.

Among the 200 patients, about 100 have behavioral health/mental health issues. “We felt this was an important population to address because, depending on level of cognitive impairment, patients may forget to take their meds or take a double dose,” Nadeau said. After becoming compliant with their medication regimens, patients are “more stable,” and can function better in the community.

The remainder of the population using the blister pack system are non-English-speaking patients.

The pharmacy introduced the SureMed system because “we felt there had to be a better way” to help patients be compliant. After looking at several options, “we felt SureMed was the most user-friendly,” Nadeau said.

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Since implementing the system, Nadeau has seen a big difference with patients receiving diabetes medications. “Now that they’re taking their meds correctly, we’ve seen the amounts of their doses decrease,” he said.

In Pennsylvania, Nairn has also witnessed firsthand the positive results of the SureMed system. He described a “young woman with HIV who was struggling with compliance and not getting the results she needed.” Since she started receiving her meds through SureMed, her lab results are in line with what her physicians want, he said.

In Buffalo, an elderly man who had been hospitalized five times in six months has not been readmitted now for a year. Before SureMed, “he would take his meds twice or not take them at all, Gilles explained.” With this new model, we are keeping overall health-care costs down while improving patient outcomes, Gilles concluded.

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