Five ways LTC can reduce medications

Larry Galluzzo
Larry Galluzzo

It's no secret that our best answer for health issues is often medication. But with multiple health issues being treated with multiple medications, seniors can be experiencing adverse effects or taking medications that are rendered unnecessary. That's why doctors and pharmacists have been working to reduce the number of mediations that seniors are taking.  

Seniors are more at risk for adverse effects and more dramatic consequences than most age groups, and that risk only increases when more medications are taken. Such adverse effects, like dizziness, nausea and dehydration, can lead to falls, depression or malnutrition.

Therefore, in today's day and age, doctors and pharmacists shouldn't be the only ones working to reduce medications for seniors. In fact, there's five ways assisted living and long-term care communities can help:

1.     Accurate medication reconciliation upon admission to the facility

When an older adult is admitted to a new community, thorough medication reconciliation can identify duplicate therapies, medications causing adverse effects or prescriptions rendered unnecessary. Naturally, this will become easier in the future as Electronic Health Records become more prevalent. Until then, accurate analysis at the soonest possible date is a great way to find possible changes in an older adult's medication.

2.     Effective consultant pharmacist utilization

Communities and physicians should embrace the expertise of consultant pharmacists. Many are trained to pinpoint unnecessary medications, and have been doing so for years. For example, at Skilled Care Pharmacy, our consultant pharmacists are recognized for their skill in discontinuing unnecessary medications, while receiving 90% physician acceptance rates to their recommendations.

3.     Adhere to accepted standards of practice relating to prescribing habits by physicians

Communities that adhere to appropriate policies and procedures relating to length of therapy and chronic disease management will generally have less medication usage. For example, clarify the minimum length of treatment for antibiotic therapies in appropriate instances and “challenge” the routine use of antihistamine therapy. The goal is to have the patient take the least amount of medication necessary, while adequately treating the condition.

4.     Superior communication with the patient and family

A strong family advocate who is familiar with the history of the patient can help with eliminating medications, through confirming allergies and intolerances to their best knowledge. An accurate medication history is valuable to physicians and pharmacists to reduce risk and choose the appropriate treatment.

5.     Interdepartmental communication at the facility

It is vital that communication remain clear between all parties involved with the resident, whether it's nurses from different shifts, physicians, physical and occupational therapists, social services, administration, physician groups or the pharmacist. Clear communication among these parties can eliminate confusion and keep all parties aligned on treatment details. 

Through working toward these five goals, assisted care and long-term care communities can protect their residents through assuring the best and most accurate medication treatments.

Larry Galluzzo, R.Ph., is the founder and CEO of Skilled Care Pharmacy. He also co-founded NetRx, a purchasing cooperative comprising owners of privately held pharmacies. 

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