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RxCARES: Minimizing errors in transitions of care

Dr. Mathew Thambi, Clinical Assistant Professor

Dr. Mathew Thambi, Clinical Assistant Professor

Under the direction of clinical assistant professor Mat Thambi, RxCARES addresses transitions of care for high-risk medicine inpatients.

Established in 2011 to counter an unacceptably high number of discharge errors, the innovative program is designed to minimize medication errors and spur improved patient health. Once a program involving simple follow-up phone calls to patients, RxCARES has evolved into a more robust reconciliation program to ensure proper medication use during patients’ hospital stay and following their discharge.

“Transitions of care sound so easy, but can be so complicated,” Thambi says.

A six-week rotation for fourth-year Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience students, RxCARES requires students to follow a specific medication management protocol for patients discharged from the hospital’s Internal Medicine service. The process includes creating detailed medication histories, resolving any medication list discrepancies, reviewing discharge plans and making follow-up phone calls to patients to assure medication and clinic adherence. Students also identify any potentially harmful interactions and suggest medication changes.

“Prior to RxCARES, errors just went unchecked,” says Thambi, who created the RxCARES program alongside colleague Adam Bursua.

In the 2016-2017 academic year, RxCARES served more than 450 patients, discovering some 1,000 errors and making more than 1,000 changes to patients’ pre-admission medication lists.

“We’re helping to ensure that patients are on the appropriate medications while in the hospital as well as at discharge, the latter being especially important given that patients will be taking those medications until their next doctor’s visit,” Thambi says.

Since its debut seven years ago, RxCARES has broadened its services to discharge counseling and prescription filling while also integrating automatic referrals into pharmacy-run clinics.

Thambi says the program provides valuable professional experience to students, allowing them to learn a structured approach to patient care and to better understand the pharmacist’s value in the healthcare ecosystem.

“RxCARES is empowering for students,” Thambi says. “They’re catching errors no one else would’ve caught and seeing firsthand how pharmacists can make a difference.”

As similar efforts become more commonplace at healthcare institutions across the country, Thambi says many look to UIC for inspiration.

“Given how harmful and costly medication errors can be, I’m proud we’ve been able to be at the forefront of something that’s improving patient health while giving our students important training,” Thambi says.