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An inside look: Employee Advisory Council visits CMC employees at Huntsville Pharmacy, Polunsky Unit

Dec 20, 2016, 14:18 PM by KirstiAnn Clifford

State-of-the-art automated devices sort medications at high speed at UTMB CMC’s central pharmacy in Huntsville.
Employee Advisory Council members got a closer look at how the Texas prison population receives medications and health care during a recent visit with UTMB Correctional Managed Care employees in Huntsville and Livingston on Oct. 17.

The day started with a tour inside UTMB CMC’s central pharmacy in Huntsville, which provides pharmaceutical services to adult and juvenile correctional facilities throughout the state of Texas. EAC members had the opportunity to hear about the successes and challenges that the 135 pharmacy employees face while working to dispense thousands of prescriptions on a daily basis.

“It’s very busy here because we have 128 prison facilities and 154,000 patients that we provide services for,” said Bill Toney, assistant director with UTMB CMC Pharmacy Services. “For perspective, we dispense more than 19,000 prescriptions a day—while a busy Walgreens might do 1,000 per day. We’ve got fantastic staff and automated technology that make it all possible.”

EAC members watched as state-of-the-art automated devices packaged and sorted medications at high speed. The technology has helped staff keep up with the high volume and has eliminated the need for pharmacists to perform a “final check” of medications before they are distributed. That has allowed pharmacists to spend more time focusing on in-depth, prospective medication profile review and working directly with providers to improve pharmacotherapy. Implementation of automated final product check began in 1997 and resulted in a 187 percent increase in clinical interventions (identification of potential drug related problems and recommended improvements to therapy) while ensuring a 99.99 percent dispensing accuracy rate. Automation has led to significantly improved processing capacity and overall improved patient safety and outcomes.

“The technology is fantastic, but as someone at a receiving unit, we don’t think about technology—we think about all the invaluable services we receive from pharmacy staff every day,” said Robert Dalecki, EAC member and CMC Region 2 director of operations. “Besides making sure medications show up at our facilities each day like clockwork, they also review orders and provide tens of thousands of interventions. Clinical pharmacists also are available to come out into the field and help us do audits and other tasks.”

Janet Gonzalez, an assistant director of clinical programs and former EAC member, has worked for UTMB CMC Pharmacy Services for more than 19 years, and has enjoyed various roles, from working directly with patients to help manage their drug therapy, to developing evidence-based disease management guidelines to promote safe and effective care.

“When I was a pharmacy clinical practice specialist, I particularly enjoyed educating patients about their drug therapy and seeing them achieve their therapeutic goals,” she said. “My role has changed but I still find satisfaction in working with others to contribute to making improvements in our health care delivery. The UTMB CMC Pharmacy Department and CMC as a whole work together to provide the best patient care possible, and it is great to be a part of a system that promotes the same.”

Following the pharmacy tour in Huntsville, EAC members drove an hour east to the Polunsky Unit in Livingston. The facility houses about 2,900 offenders—including more than 230 who are on death row.

EAC members visit with UTMB CMC employees at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston.Nearly 50 UTMB CMC employees provide medical, dental and mental health services at the unit, which includes a 17-bed infirmary with 13 assisted-living beds, two respiratory isolation rooms and two mental health observation rooms. They also coordinate appointments at UTMB TDCJ Hospital Galveston for offenders who need specialty care.

EAC members observed staff conduct a Weekly Relay meeting and discussed the challenges they face every day, such as providing health care during “lockdown” periods, and caring for an aging prison population.

“We play an important role because our patients need a lot of care,” said Denise Church, a correctional clinical associate. “We are here to be an advocate for them and help them get the medical care they need—at our clinic, at Hospital Galveston or otherwise.”

Senior Practice Manager Anitra Lindley said her staff is loyal and dedicated to providing the best health care to patients.

“We see about 150 patients on a daily basis, so we are a busy group,” she said. “The seamless flow of the clinic is actuated by seasoned personnel that are passionate about medical care for an underserved population.”

To view more photos from EAC's CMC visit, click here.