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The ribbon cutting at the new Upstate Outpatient Pharmacy.

Upstate opens second Outpatient Pharmacy near Community Hospital to serve more patients, the public

After overwhelming success with its downtown outpatient pharmacy, Upstate Medical University has opened a new, additional outpatient pharmacy across from Upstate Community Hospital on Onondaga Hill that will serve more patients and be open to the public.

The new SUNY Upstate Outpatient Pharmacy is located at 5000 W. Seneca Turnpike at the intersection of Broad Road, in the building previously occupied by Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists (SOS). Upstate began leasing the 4,200-square-foot space late last year, has invested more than $2 million in renovations and equipment, and celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon-cutting on Thursday, July 15.

The new pharmacy will support the Meds to Beds program at Upstate Community Hospital, it will handle all of Upstate’s mail order prescriptions and will specialize in compounding, which is the mixing of complex pharmaceuticals in specialized dosages and forms. About 15 people will work in the new facility, which includes a walk-up counter for employees and patients.  

The new pharmacy is also home to Upstate’s new pill packaging machine, which produces individualized pill packs based on dosing time (morning, noon, evening and bedtime) that are proving popular and effective for patients. Every hour, the machine can produce 1,200 pouches, which are portioned and labeled for different times of the day. Many patients require four pouches per day meaning the machine can produce monthly packs for about 10 patients per hour. Another new machine provides a high level of quality control by checking up to 2,400 medications per hour to ensure the patient is receiving the correct medication, said Eric Balotin, RPh, director of retail/specialty pharmacy services.

“The pill packs, the Meds to Beds program and many of the other things we’re doing significantly reduce hospital readmission rates related to adverse medication problems,” Balotin said. “We’re hoping to get 300 to 400 patients using the pill packs, which can be mailed directly to our patients. We are trying to keep people out of the hospital and trying to keep them safe from medication adverse effects.”

Balotin noted that the pill packs use symbols and images as instructions, which is helpful in cutting across language barriers.

Upstate opened its first Outpatient Pharmacy downtown in June 2018. The pharmacy created a highly utilized and efficient Meds to Beds program that ensures patients leave the hospital with critical medications in hand. Today, Upstate’s Outpatient Pharmacy mails about 2,000 prescriptions per month, personally delivers 600 packages a month and has a staff of 12 insurance authorization specialists and two medication assistance coordinators. That staff works with drug and insurance companies to make the medications affordable and quickly accessible to patients. In a little more than three years, Outpatient Pharmacy staff has grown from zero to more than 60 employees, Balotin said.

“We have saved patients more than a million dollars on their prescription costs in the last year,” he said. “And we’re on track to do more than that this year.”

Obtaining medicine – even when it’s critical to a person’s healing, recovery and health – is difficult for many patients. Access to a pharmacy, transportation as well as financial limitations may hinder that process. Upstate’s Outpatient Pharmacy, now with two locations and a third planned for the Nappi Longevity Institute, is doing everything it can to eliminate those barriers and to great success.

“Almost 50 percent of all discharges now use our meds to beds program,” Balotin said. “Our readmission rate is significantly lower than the hospital as a whole. There was a national study that showed 35 to 40 percent of patients never pick up their medications. We’re preventing that. Can’t pick them up? We’ll bring them to you or mail them. Can’t afford them? Our team will make sure that you can.”

Upstate’s outpatient pharmacies are open to any patients affiliated with an Upstate office or doctor, and its services are open to Upstate employees and the public. The new SUNY Upstate Outpatient Pharmacy at 5000 W. Seneca Turnpike will be open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. To use the Upstate Outpatient Pharmacy call 315-464-3784, option 2.

Caption: Cutting the ribbon for the new SUNY Upstate Outpatient Pharmacy are from left to right: Emily Adamy, supervising pharmacy; Eric Balotin, director of retail/specialty pharmacy; Veronica Farrell account specialist; Upstate Medical University President Mantosh Dewan, MD; Upstate Medical University CEO Robert Corona, DO; Assemblyman William Magnarelli; Upstate patient Kathleen Daddario; and Upstate Medical University CFO Stuart Wright.