What Are the Benefits of an Outpatient Pharmacy?

T. Carrier

Healthcare providers ideally strive for top-notch patient care, convenience, and cost-effectiveness. Pharmacies are an important part of these goals, and outpatient pharmacies can potentially fulfill healthcare aims. An outpatient pharmacy usually shares both a closer proximity and closer working relationship with medical institutions, enabling the pharmacy to provide more specialized and more time-saving services for patients. This infrastructure can also ease the financial burden on pharmacy users via drug discounts and increased insurance options.

To ensure patient safety, pill bottles must be labeled correctly.
To ensure patient safety, pill bottles must be labeled correctly.

Pharmacies are institutions that work with medical facilities to equip patients with necessary and correctly measured prescription drugs. While a large bulk of pharmacies will fill prescriptions from various medical institutions, an outpatient pharmacy is exclusive to one medical facility or one type of medical facility. Hospitals or clinics may have outpatient pharmacies, as do certain other medical groups. In most cases, the medical facility will have ownership over the pharmacy.

This close relationship can be an advantage for patients medically. Since the outpatient pharmacy has direct hospital access, the agents necessary for many drugs are more readily available. Therefore, the pharmacy can access these agents and create drugs specially targeted toward specific individual needs. In a traditional pharmacy, this process would usually require time-consuming special orders.

Increased communication between medical institutions and an outpatient pharmacy further benefits the patient. If problems arise, medical staff are readily on hand to address mis-dosages and other issues. Patients are also fewer and perhaps better-known at outpatient pharmacies, which allows the pharmacy staff to better meet the patients' needs and detect any problems the hospital staff may have overlooked.

Convenience is another major benefit of outpatient pharmacies. Since outpatients are non-hospitalized, a pharmaceutical trip must be worked into a schedule. In most cases, the pharmacy rests in close proximity to the patient’s medical institution, whereas patients often must travel several miles (or kilometers) to reach a traditional pharmacy. An institution’s employees may also benefit from outpatient pharmacies, since many of these outlets fill staff prescriptions as well as patient prescriptions. Further, most outpatient pharmacies offer several prescription-filling options, including personal visits, phone prescriptions, and even mail-order prescriptions in some cases.

Outpatient pharmacies often prove cost-effective as well. Aside from the money saved on travel, pharmaceutical costs may also be reduced. The close connection between outpatient pharmacies and medical facilities often allows pharmacy discounts for patients and staff.

In addition, the outpatient pharmacy can serve as an efficient cog in government-sponsored healthcare plans. For example, in the United States, insurance and healthcare programs like Medicare and Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals utilize outpatient pharmacies for their patients’ prescription needs. These plans help low-income families, disabled veterans, and other groups pay for and receive healthcare assistance.

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