Lifting the Medication Burden: Long-Term Care Pharmacies Optimize Dose Packaging

Imagine: a resident of assisted living sees her oncologist, an ophthalmologist and her GP within a week, arriving home with a handful of new prescriptions. Her favorite nurse starts in on them, but the new treatments add a few more bottles to open and a few new pills and capsules to keep track of—a discouraging challenge.      

Now, imagine that a single, dedicated pharmacy aggregates and verifies these medication changes, before they’re even delivered to the resident’s facility. That favorite nurse can scan the resident’s customized multi-dose pack—one for each med pass—and point out each medication’s name, dosage and physical description, clearly printed on its easy-open pouch. This delivery solution—from a pharmacy in sync with the individual resident’s conditions and goals of care—takes just seconds and save hours. Most important, it prevents mistakes.

“Older adults in extended-care facilities are often victims of polypharmacy and the prescribing cascade,” says Dr. David Phillips, director of clinical services and consultant pharmacist at Blue Ridge Pharmacy. Blue Ridge works directly and exclusively with long-term care facilities. “The large medication burden in this population, along with staffing challenges faced by facilities, opens the door for medication administration errors.”

Proper packaging systems, produced and monitored by a dedicated pharmacy, help prevent these mistakes, Phillips explains. Dispensing technologies are customized to meet each client’s needs and can include:


  • 30-day on-demand blister packs
  • 30-day cycle blister packs
  • Single- or multi- QuickDose customizable pouch packaging
  • Vials

The goal is to utilize multi-dose packaging when it will save patients and caregivers time and expense, Phillips says, while recommending stand-alone packaging for medications that fluctuate in dosage, such as the blood-thinner Coumadin, which can vary week to week. “This is where our highly trained consultant pharmacists play a vital role,” he explains. “As a part of your facility’s team, they work with staff and prescribers to individualize each resident’s medication regimen, avoiding medication waste.”

Blue Ridge integrates electronic medication records administration and bar-code scanning into each packaging type so health records are complete in real time. Long-term care pharmacies like Blue Ridge are also authorized to collect discontinued or unused medications for proper disposal, if permissible by state law—a best practice to avoid errors and prevent medication diversion, Phillips says.

To transfer medications between the pharmacy and the facility, Blue Ridge maintains a fleet of delivery vehicles. Scheduled delivery occurs twice daily Monday through Friday and once on Saturday. Sundays or additional deliveries are available if emergencies arise.

“A systematic approach is required to tailor each resident’s medication regimen,” Phillips concludes. When medications are efficiently managed, caregivers are free to do what their most important work: providing care.