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New study finds benefit of the Dispensary of Hope program in reducing health care costs

Researchers observed a significant decline in the annual hospital costs of program participants at one health system

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — A new paper from researchers at RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, found that enrollment in Dispensary of Hope, a charitable medication access program, is associated with lower hospital costs and fewer inpatient stays.

Dispensary of Hope is a nonprofit organization that collects and distributes critical medications to pharmacies and safety-net clinics to dispense to low-income, uninsured patients for free. There are currently 220 sites in Dispensary of Hope’s national network that fill more than 1 million prescriptions annually.

The study was conducted by researchers from RTI, including Benjamin Allaire, M.S., Yan Tang, Ph.D., Simon Neuwahl, M.S.P.H., Naomi Buell, Olga Khavjou, M.A., and program staff from Dispensary of Hope.

“There are a host of reasons why people don’t take their prescribed medications and prescription costs are routinely listed near the top,” said Allaire, a health economist at RTI and lead author of the study. “We found that, at one health system, enrollment in the program helped these patients avoid future hospital costs and visits.”

The study compared administrative billing claims at two health systems to understand the differences in medical costs and visits between Dispensary of Hope participants and a comparison group over an 18-month period after enrollment in the program.

At one health system (HS1) examined in the study, RTI researchers found that the annual per person hospital costs of Dispensary of Hope enrollees decreased by $3,161. Although there was an increase in emergency department visits, the drop in annual hospital costs resulted from a 23% decline in inpatient stays among program participants.

Hospital costs, inpatient stays and emergency department visits at the second health system (HS2) did not change significantly. The authors acknowledged that the variation in results between HS1 and HS2 could be due to differences in patient profiles of the two systems. Patients enrolled in the Dispensary of Hope program were generally sicker at HS1 with an average of three comorbidities, while those at HS2 had an average of 0.9 comorbidities per patient.

“Providing medication to the most vulnerable is not only the right thing to do and core to our mission—it works,” said Hillary Blackburn, Pharm.D., M.B.A., Chief Pharmacy Officer at Dispensary of Hope. “Measuring outcomes is how we establish evidence that our commitment to serve impacts the health of communities and our nation as a whole. This most recent research in partnership with RTI delivers that evidence. The equation is simple, and we can see clearly that pragmatic innovation like ours delivers win-win scenarios across the entire health paradigm. Increasing access equals improved outcomes, which equals cost avoidance. Current and future partners in this work are seeking innovation that delivers results, and this research confirms their confidence in this work.”

The research was published in the Journal of Managed Care & Specialty Pharmacy. 

Read the full paper

About RTI International
RTI International is an independent, nonprofit research institute dedicated to improving the human condition. Clients rely on us to answer questions that demand an objective and multidisciplinary approach — one that integrates expertise across the social and laboratory sciences, engineering and international development. We believe in the promise of science, and we are inspired every day to deliver on that promise for the good of people, communities and businesses around the world. For more information, visit www.rti.org.

About Dispensary of Hope
Nashville-based Dispensary of Hope has been actively operating and building a national model of medication access for the most vulnerable for over a decade. This innovative model unifies pharmaceutical manufacturing and safety-net health care delivery with a common goal of saving and transforming lives. The model is unique in its ability to converge different areas of the health care industry to provide access to medication at no cost to the patient, while maintaining the highest quality standards in the medication distribution industry. This collaboration delivers pragmatic results, including: improved health outcomes for patients, reduced cost and environmental impact from medication destruction and positive shifts in health care cost burden from acute care treatment to health condition management. For more information, visit www.dispensaryofhope.org.