by David Pope, CDE, PharmD, Chief Innovation Officer
Food insecurity is defined as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.” This directly relates to a lack of resources needed to provide food. In many cases, patients are forced to make a choice between buying food and being able to buy their medication.
A Local Pharmacy + Local Food Bank
We begin a pilot program in Augusta, GA with a local pharmacy and a local food bank with goal of making a positive impact on food insecurity in the region. Through this collaboration, the program addressed both physiological and safety needs. By alleviating food insecurities for patients, we can help to improve their overall health and prevent patients from having to choose between buying their food or buying their medication.
The program started with a local pharmacy identifying and referring patients with food insecurity to a local food bank for further engagement. The food bank was provided with Strand-Rx accounts so that they could securely communicate with the pharmacy. Next, the pharmacy staff administered a questionnaire to their patients and identified patients has having food insecurity if they had a positive response to either of the hunger vital sign questions. For these patients who provided positive responses, the pharmacist documented that within Strand-Rx.
The pharmacist then sent a Direct Secure Message (DSM) to the food back with the information in the responses from the patient’s questionnaire without any Protected Health Information (PHI). The pharmacist identified the referral with a unique code comprised of the patient’s first and last initials and the chronological number for the referral. The pharmacist also marked the patient’s profile in Strand-Rx as a “food bank identified” patient so that in the future, the pharmacist could readily access the list of patients that were referred to the food bank.
For each referred patient, the food bank packed a box of non-refrigerated shelf staples at their facility. In addition to the 25 pounds of food, they also included a list of food pantries in the area in which the patient lived in case they wanted to explore further options for food assistance. A food bank staff member would deliver the boxes of food to the pharmacy periodically, depending on when referred patients were successfully contacted and able to pick up their box of food.
Results of Pharmacy Food Insecurity Pilot Program
Overall, Strand-Rx enabled communication and interoperability between the pharmacy and the food bank, providing each party with the technology and means necessary for appropriate documentation and communication throughout the process. This program embodies what is right with healthcare…working across healthcare organizations and community organizations and leveraging technology to optimize patient care!
Final Pilot Outcomes:
- 90% success rate
- 50% first-time introduction to food bank