Without getting out of bed patients can have their prescriptions filled, video chat with pharmacists

Pharmacist shares information about prescriptions over video conference

Pharmacist shares information about prescriptions over video conference

It’s now easier than ever for patients to fill their prescriptions before leaving Tucson Medical Center.

Patients can have those medications delivered right to their bedside and can even have a counseling session with the pharmacist over a video call without ever leaving their bed.

It goes far beyond a matter of one-stop convenience.

It’s also a matter of safety, since there are a multitude of barriers that could prevent that prescription from being filled after patients leave the hospital, said Pharmacy Director Gilbert Romero. Maybe they don’t have transportation. Maybe they don’t feel up to making that extra stop on the way home and to get prior authorization if they need it. Maybe the prescription is more expensive than they anticipated and they can’t afford it.

“If they’re home and they don’t have their medicine, then they’re not following through with their discharge plan, and that’s when they’re really at risk of re-admission,” Romero said. “Our goal is not only to take care of patients while they’re here, but to make sure they’re on a healthy path after they leave as well.”

If patients run into trouble filling a prescription, they may be helped by drawing on the full resources of the hospital. If a medication is too expensive, case managers can work with that patient to help find a solution. In hardship cases, for example, some medications may be provided for 30 days for free, which at least will serve as a bridge until the patient can see their primary care physician.

Among other conveniences, the Pharmacy:

  • Accepts all large private insurance plans, as well as the state’s Medicaid plans, known more familiarly as AHCCCS.
  • Takes manufacturer’s coupons.
  • Alerts customers via text, email or phone when prescriptions are ready.
  • Offers a great bargain, from inexpensive generics to reasonably priced prescriptions. In fact, for employees, the plan is designed so that the Pharmacy is among the cheapest options in town.
  • Operates during convenient hours; Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. – including through lunch hours – and Saturdays from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. The Pharmacy is closed Sundays and holidays.

Pharmacists wear many hats in managing a hospital’s medications

TMC Pharmacy staffs the hospital around the clock, making it difficult to gather more than a small percentage for a team photo. Unless they work in a procedural/surgical area, you can spot a pharmacy staff member by the black scrubs.

Oct. 16-23 is National Hospitaland Health-System Pharmacy Week. Tucson Medical Center celebrates the vital role of our Pharmacy, which has a staff of 109. To get a sense about what Pharmacy does at TMC, we turn to Eric Bergstrom, Pharm.D., clinical lead pharmacist:

What does Pharmacy do at the hospital? We are the drug experts. We get many phone calls from nurses, doctors and other staff asking us the dose and side effects of medications, how to administer them, and if there are interactions or incompatibilities.

We have technicians documenting medication histories from patients in the Emergency department. Technicians also repackage bottles of medications into individual packages with barcodes on them. They deliver medications to the nursing units every hour (or sooner for stat drugs). Technicians in the IV room prepare thousands of sterile products weekly including antibiotics, nutritional solutions, chemotherapy, IV fluids, pain medications, investigational drugs and many more.

The pharmacists keep busy checking new medications going out to Nursing, verifying orders from providers, monitoring high-risk drugs, adjusting doses for kidney and liver disease, changing meds to oral when appropriate, evaluating fall risks from medications, ordering appropriate labs for follow-up and will soon be adjusting medications used for stress ulcer prophylaxis.

Some nursing areas have pharmacists that round and review patients daily. There are some specialized teams in the Pharmacy:

  • PICC line nurses insert central lines from the arm
  • TPN pharmacists adjust nutrients and electrolytes in IV solutions
  • EPIC pharmacy specialists help set up the computer system for medications and staff
  • PYXIS specialists help set up medication-distribution machines
  • Glycemic-control pharmacists make changes to patients’ medications to better control their blood sugars
  • Antimicrobial-stewardship pharmacists look at antibiotic use and change practice to reduce resistance and increase efficacy
  • And, most recently, the pain-team pharmacists help improve patients’ pain scores and reduce side effects from their medications

In addition, the Outpatient pharmacy (located by the Emergency department) fills 55,000 scripts per year which is about 85 percent of all prescriptions for employees and their families.

We have wonderful management and support staff who keep our department running efficiently through scheduling, training and communication. TMC Pharmacy is involved in many multidisciplinary teams that add to the quality of patient care at TMC. Pharmacy plays a vital role in drug distribution and patient safety with the other members of the patient care team, including nurses, physicians, therapists, food service personnel and more.

We are proud to be TMC!


Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461