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St. Luke's outpatient pharmacies innovate to meet growing need for medication access

A few of our Boise outpatient pharmacy team members.
By Dave Southorn, News and Community
June 21, 2023

Access to prescription medications is a vital part of patient care. And with more people than ever calling Idaho “home,” meeting the increasing demand for medications has sparked innovative solutions for St. Luke’s. 

The outpatient pharmacies at St. Luke’s have experienced significant growth in recent years, handling more than 400,000 prescriptions alone and filling about 11% of the total written by St. Luke’s providers— an increase from 6.5% just three years ago.

“As busy as we are … it’s amazing how effective and successful our talented outpatient pharmacy team have been, despite working out of very small pharmacies that were not built for the volumes we are seeing today,” said Kelley Curtis, St. Luke’s vice president and chief pharmacy officer.

Currently, St. Luke’s outpatient pharmacies employ about 70 people. Access to medications, medication affordability and customer experience are high priorities for the pharmacy team.

Since COVID-19 there are now permanent curbside pickup options at the Boise, Nampa and Meridian hospitals, along with easy-to-use medication lockers for St. Luke’s employees at two locations (Boise and Twin Falls), plus 24/7 public access for prescription pick-up at a popular WinCo in Meridian and St. Luke’s Clinic – Payette Lakes Family Medicine in McCall.

Nampa outpatient pharmacy team members.

The first clinic-based pharmacy will open in St. Luke’s Clinic – Internal Medicine on Cloverdale in Boise in the coming months, available to patients being seen in that clinic. The second will open inside the new south Nampa clinic in the future.

Also planned is a new outpatient pharmacy at St. Luke’s Magic Valley, expected to open in spring 2024.

A new retail pharmacy is expected this fall in Fruitland and additional medication lockers are expected to be added at WinCo locations in Eagle and Magic Valley later this year.

Utilizing one of the lockers to pick up a prescription can take as little as 30 seconds, Curtis said, increasing access and appealing to many who may be interested in streamlining their errands.

Patients inside the hospitals will also benefit. In the coming months, the “Meds to Beds” program —where St. Luke’s team members provide outpatient prescriptions to patients at the hospital before they discharge — will expand to 24/7 at the St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center, allowing more after-hours prescriptions to be filled immediately instead of the next day.

The St. Luke’s Meridian hospital pharmacy started offering the same 24/7 access last fall. Curtis said this has been a successful initiative, ensuring more patients do not go without their acute medication needs that arise in the overnight hours after they leave the hospital.

“We know our pharmacies provide a better transition of care,” Curtis said. “We have the full picture of our patients’ care needs, having access to their entire medical record. We want to be the pharmacy provider of choice, for all of our patients, for this reason.”

The St. Luke’s outpatient pharmacies can accept all prescriptions, even those written by non-St. Luke’s providers. The cost is the same as other retail pharmacies, and most insurance networks are accepted. 

Through St. Luke’s, patients can also be connected to the medication access team, which can help find ways to make medications more affordable.

“Everyone working on these initiatives is so dedicated. I can’t say enough about all they’ve taken on and I think that will reflect in our patients’ experiences,” Curtis said.

“I’m very proud of this entire team!”

About The Author

Dave Southorn works in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke's.