Pharmacy shuttles its way to expanded service area

Existing airport service put to medical use

In some parts of the country where patients are sparsely scattered across a wide area, becoming a regional home infusion provider can be tricky. Sometimes, it’s a combination of luck and old-fashioned ingenuity that provides a home infusion agency with the opportunity to cater to patients hundreds of miles away from the pharmacy.

A unique delivery system has afforded Home Health Services the opportunity to provide first dose infusions to patients in its service area.

When the regional home health and nursing company added the durable medical equipment/home infusion component to its services, the agency was able to provide one-stop shopping for referrals sources. But getting IV solutions from its pharmacy in Las Vegas —a full two-hour drive away from its corporate headquarters in St. George, UT — to its patients served from the St. George site could prove problematic.

To solve the problem, Home Health began to use a shuttle service that runs between St. George and the international airport in Las Vegas every other hour.

"Our pharmacist in Las Vegas can mix the solution, drive it to the airport, and drop it off with the shuttle," says Jim McDonald, vice president of information management for Home Health Services. "We then can conceivably get a product to a patient within three hours from the order."

Once the solution arrives via the shuttle in the St. George office, a courier picks up the solution from the shuttle service and completes the delivery to the appropriate agency. This system has allowed Home Health Services to provide first doses to patients in all but the most distant locations of its coverage region. Once a patient is being cared for by Home Health, ensuing shipments for patients in the St. George area are handled by the St. George shuttle, while others outside the area use mail order.

"We service our Utah operations out of our Las Vegas site, and we’re trying to project service to Arizona as well," says McDonald.

Matt Schlachter, PharmD, the director of pharmacy for Home Health Services, says the process wouldn’t be nearly as smooth without the shuttle service.

"Otherwise, it would require me to make a trip to St. George or for someone to meet me half way," he says. He adds that other options simply aren’t affordable or convenient. Flying costs $50, and there are only two flights a day.

Shuttles leave Las Vegas for St. George five times a day. The first shuttle leaves at 8 a.m., the last at 8 p.m. Most convenient of all, there is no advance notice or registration required, and the cost is just $10. Schlachter simply has to show up with the solution and payment. He adds that there are no security concerns regarding tampering, either.

"The solutions are shipped in a sealed cardboard box that is non-descriptive," he says.

Home Health discovered the shuttle service a bit by accident, Schlachter says. McDonald became aware of the service through a business associate who used the shuttle when he flew to Las Vegas to meet with Home Health.

"Doctors expect eight-hour service, and we can provide it with this," Schlachter says.