Published on October 4, 2012 by Mary Wimberley  

Samford University's McWhorter School of Pharmacy will receive a $865,568 federal grant to assist with an initiative to reduce avoidable hospitalizations among Medicare-Medicaid dual enrollees in 23 Alabama nursing home facilities.

The grant from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is part of a program led by the Alabama Quality Assurance Foundation (AQAF), one of seven organizations that will partner with CMS to improve quality of care and reduce hospitalizations among nursing home residents at 145 sites nationwide.

In Alabama, the Samford pharmacy school and nine other health-care related partners will provide enhanced on-site services and supports to nursing facility residents. The nursing homes are located in 14 counties in central and north central Alabama.

Pharmacists at the Samford's Global Drug Information Service (GDIS) will provide evidence-based decision support for health care providers and educate health care professionals regarding the rational use of medications, said GDIS director Maisha Kelly Freeman, Pharm.D.

"The pharmacists will implement quality improvement projects to reduce the risk of adverse events and avoidable hospitalizations related to use of high-risk medications," said Dr. Freeman.  "They will also provide continuing education seminars on the appropriate use of medications, facilitate training sessions with nursing personnel and evaluate the success of the educational initiative."

Freeman and pharmacy professors  P.J. Hughes, Pharm.D., and Rachel Slaton, Pharm.D., will serve as co-principal investigators on the project.

The initiative will be run collaboratively by the CMS Medicare-Medicaid Coordination Office and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, both created by the Affordable Care Act to improve health care quality and reduce costs in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Nearly two-thirds of nursing facility residents are enrolled in Medicaid, and most are also enrolled in Medicare. Research has found that about 45 percent of hospitalizations among Medicare-Medicaid enrollees receiving either Medicare skilled nursing facility services or Medicaid nursing facility services could have been avoided.  Total costs for these potentially avoidable hospitalizations were estimated to be between $7 and $8 billion for 2011.

In addition to Samford, other partners in the AQAF-led project are the Alabama Department of Senior Services, Alabama Department of Public Health, Alabama Medicaid Agency, University of Alabama Center for Mental Health and Aging, University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Gerontology and Palliative Medicine, Alabama Nursing Home Association, Alabama Hospital Association and Alabama Medical Directors Association. AQAF received a total $15.2 million in grant money from CMS for the project.

AQAF serves as Alabama's Medicare Quality Improvement Organization.  Other organizations receiving CMS grants to pursue the initiative are Alegent Health (Nebraska), The Curators of the University of Missouri, Greater New York Hospital Foundation, Inc.,  HealthInsight of Nevada, Indiana University and UPMC Community Provider Services (Pennsylvania).


Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.