An Oregon study suggests that limited access to pharmacy services could lead to higher hospital readmission rates, particularly among seniors. 

The study investigators calculated the cumulative number of hours that pharmacies were open in primary care service areas across the state and compared the totals with 30-day readmission rates at local hospitals for patients aged 65 years or older. The analysis included 507 pharmacies and 58 hospitals. 

Readmission rates ranged from 13.5 percent in Bend, a larger city with 14 pharmacies, to 16.5 percent. In rural Prineville, where there are only three pharmacies, the readmission rate was 15.7 percent.

Mail order services combined with telepharmacy—counseling and monitoring by remote pharmacists—may be a viable solution, but the owners of one family-run pharmacy contend that the imposed use of mail-order pharmacies is forcing independent pharmacies out of business, which exacerbates the challenges in low-access areas.

Rural areas are not the only places with limited pharmacy access. “Pharmacy deserts” exist in lower socioeconomic areas within large cities such as Chicago.

Other factors, including lack of physicians and support services, might also contribute to higher readmission rates in rural areas, the researchers acknowledged.

The study results were published online Aug. 1 by the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.

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