Blog post by Mel Green, Director of Business Development & Public Relations, GrandView Pharmacy
For most of us medications play an expanding role in our lives as we grow older. I personally hate taking medications and my wife often gives me grief when I refuse to go to the doctor when I become ill or have unexpected pains… The sad reality is that as we get older it is inevitable that we will be prescribed some sort of medication at some point.
We are more likely to develop one or more chronic illnesses as we advance in age, and the appropriate medication can help us live longer and have much more active lives in our later years. However, as we age medication use is more likely to produce safety concerns.
Our elderly are at a greater risk of issues created by misuse or mishandling of medications. There are a growing number of prescription medications available, and a growing population of older adults. Therefore, the potential for medication safety problems in our elderly population is increasing rapidly. As we age, we are much more likely to be prescribed more than one kind of prescription medication. Many of our elderly take three or more routine prescription medications for chronic health issues, thus leading to an increased risk for drug interactions, mix-ups, and the potential for adverse side effects.
Our elderly are at an even higher risk for medication related emergencies that could lead to hospitalization or rehospitalization if they fall in any of these categories:
- live alone
- take 3 or more medications (including over-the-counter medications and supplements)
- see multiple prescribing physicians
- have any memory or cognition issues
- use multiple pharmacies.
These factors could lead to harmful and life threating outcomes if not managed appropriately.
Even though we live in a very high-tech world, most of our elder population and our health care systems for the elder population, aren’t that high tech. Unfortunately, most prescribing physicians do not know if a patient has been prescribed a drug by another physician that could potentially produce a negative interaction with one they’ve prescribed.
Therefore, it is vital that our elder population is educated and understands why it is critical that they or a care provider keeps accurate records of their medications, and shares it with each of their physicians.
In addition, the sheer impact of aging causes older adults’ bodies to process and respond to medicines differently than those of younger adults. As we age, we experience changes in the liver, kidneys, central nervous system, and heart. These changes are among the contributing factors causing elderly people to be more vulnerable to overdose and have adverse side effects. We must also consider that age-related challenges like memory loss or poor eyesight can also make it harder for our seniors to follow instructions for taking medication. Let’s also not overlook the fact that the prescription medications can be expensive and the financial pressure may prevent seniors from filling prescriptions timely or at all!
The good news is that most pharmacies offer free consultation regarding a patient’s medications. The key is to ensure that patients and/or their caregivers keep an accurate account of all medications and have them reviewed consistently. Most consultant pharmacist would recommend having patients medication regimen reviewed at least every six weeks if they are taking more than 3 routine medications. For most of our elderly population living in a senior care community or an assisted living environment the state requires that their medications be reviewed by a licensed pharmacist for safety, effectiveness and overall quality of life every four-to-six weeks.
The pharmacist role is becoming an even more vital part of the quality of health care and overall positive patient outcomes. Our government and health care experts have recognized the essential role that medication management plays in treating chronic diseases, and they have stressed that including pharmacists in chronic-care delivery teams will both improve health outcomes and reduce overall health costs.
Due to various new laws and health care regulations we have seen an uptick in the use of (1) collaborative practice agreements (CPAs), which is a formal agreement in which a licensed provider makes a diagnosis, supervises patient care, and refers patients to a pharmacist under a protocol that allows the pharmacist to perform specific patient care functions.
It has been proven that a pharmacist can improve patients’ health and the health care delivery system if they are part of the patient’s health care team. (2) A 2010 study found that patient health improves significantly when pharmacists work with doctors and other providers to manage patient care. (3) One example of this is when The Community Preventive Services Task Force found strong evidence that team-based care can improve blood pressure control when a pharmacist is included on the team.
There are multiple other studies that prove the importance of the pharmacist’s involvement with overall patient care. Therefore, it is vital that we educate and inform our elder population of the importance of talking with their pharmacist and utilizing them as a resource. It is also important for them to communicate with their care providers that they would like a pharmacist to be involved with their care plan.
For those caring for our seniors in the nursing home, assisted living and independent living settings I encourage you to maximize your consultant pharmacist and ensure they work in coordination with all of the prescribers in your communities. Also, request your pharmacy to hold different educational offerings for your residents and their families. In addition to consulting and reviewing medication regimens there are various programs, packaging options and technologies that your pharmacy can recommend to help improve medication safety.
At GrandView Pharmacy, we offer pharmacy consulting by pharmacist that specialize in servicing our elder population, and are experienced with working with senior care communities that care for the elderly. Our consultants are employees of GrandView and work in conjunction with our internal pharmacist, our customer service representatives, your clinical care team and your residents. GrandView’s pharmacists optimize medication management, eliminate the use of unnecessary medications and improve the overall health outcomes for the residents we help care for.
GrandView prides ourself on being the most innovative and proactive pharmacy in the long-term care industry. Therefore, one of our primary initiatives in 2017, and will continue to be one of our service staples is providing access to turnkey clinical protocols that can be implemented by your consultant pharmacist. In addition to making appropriate recommendations on patient’s medication regimens our consultant pharmacist have been working with our current customers to install health living protocols such as antimicrobial stewardship, Glycemic Control, COPD and Metabolic Validation. These turnkey protocols have been proven to be valuable to our current customers, and have helped produce positive patient outcomes. We believe by offering programs like this to our customers they will be ahead of the industry trends. These pharmacists implemented programs will produce superior patient care by bridging the gaps between care providers and providing clinical programs that physicians can see value in, and endorse. To learn more about our protocols click here.
- Giberson S, Yoder S, Lee MP. Improving Patient and Health System Outcomes through Advanced Pharmacy Practice. A Report to the U.S. Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: Office of the Chief Pharmacist, US Public Health Service; 2011.
- Chisholm-Burns MA, Kim Lee J, Spivey CA, Slack M, Herrier RN, Hall-Lipsy E, et al. US pharmacists’ effect as team members on patient care: systematic review and meta-analyses. Med Care. 2010;48:923–33