The issue of multiple drug prescriptions poses a significant threat to patients’ well-being. Polypharmacy may have far-reaching consequences and negatively affect individuals’ health through various side effects and other unfavorable drug events. The problem mainly occurs because patients are either prescribed with inappropriate medications or when they refer to different healthcare providers to address distinct health concerns.
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When health practitioners do not take into account previously prescribed drugs, the risk of adverse outcomes increases. Considering all this, it is essential to develop a policy that would enable professionals to reduce the practice of multiple drug prescriptions and eliminate excess financial and health costs associated with it.
Polypharmacy and Policy
To formulate an effective polypharmacy policy, it is appropriate to review some examples from other states. McIntosh et al. (2018) conducted a case study focused on measures employed to combat this problem in nine European countries. They revealed that these measures are implemented mostly as part of larger national and regional healthcare programs focused on older adults and patients with chronic disabilities, workforce development, and overall medication safety (McIntosh et al., 2018).
For instance, in the United Kingdom, efforts are made to expand the role of pharmacists and ensure their active involvement in case management, control of medication adherence, communication with general practitioners, and so forth (McIntosh et al., 2018).
Additionally, significant attention is paid to the implementation of information and communication technologies (ICT) in many European countries, including Sweden, Spain, and Germany. ICTs allow practitioners to register all prescribed medications and see revisions made in treatment plans (McIntosh et al., 2018). Noteworthily, when an ICT is programmed to automatically detect any drug incompatibilities in prescriptions by numerous physicians, the risks of adverse medication effects are reduced to a minimum.
The latter of the reviewed examples can be regarded as particularly effective. It is valid to say that its implementation may highly benefit the US healthcare system as this measure strives to eliminate the problem of miscommunication among practitioners. Nevertheless, the polypharmacy policy should address multiple aspects of the issue at once. One of the best ways to achieve this is through the improvement of organizational culture and structure in hospitals.
For instance, Farrell et al. (2018) state that collaboration between different types of professionals, including physicians, pharmacists and nurses has proved to reduce the prescription of inappropriate drugs. Therefore, it can be suggested in the policy to establish interprofessional teams that would deal with the polypharmacy problem and manage each case individually.
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Improvement in culture also implies the promotion of practitioners’ motivation to focus on the risks of multiple drug prescription and their empowerment for greater progress in this endeavor. It is clear that hospital leadership must be actively involved in the process and should provide resources and develop protocols aimed to foster professionals’ compliance with patient safety initiatives. For example, leaders must train practitioners to implement various risk assessment tools, such as the Medication Appropriateness Index, which is clinically proved to prevent adverse drug events (Whitman, DeGregory, Morris, Mohile, & Ramsdale, 2018). These measures and instruments can help flag high-risk prescribing and predict risks to patient safety.
Overall, the proposed policy will deal with the root of the polypharmacy problem that is the lack of resources and organizational systems needed to prevent inappropriate medication prescriptions. To make the implementation of policy more feasible, it may be suggested to follow the example of the European countries and focus on specific at-risk populations: people of advanced age and patients with chronic conditions. It is valid to say that interprofessional team services, systematic use of assessment tools, and technologies aimed to detect polypharmacy risks can ensure greater patient safety and lead to a better quality of life in those with multiple drug prescriptions.
Farrell, B., Thompson, W., Black, C. D., Archibald, D., Raman-Wilms, L., Grassau, P., Patel, T., Weaver, L., Eid, K., … Winslade, N. (2018). Health care providers’ roles and responsibilities in management of polypharmacy: Results of a modified Delphi. Canadian Pharmacists Journal, 151(6), 395-407.
McIntosh, J., Alonso, A., MacLure, K., Stewart, D., Kempen, T., Mair, A.,… Hersberger, K. (2018). A case study of polypharmacy management in nine European countries: Implications for change management and implementation. Plos One, 13(4), 0195232.
Whitman, A., DeGregory, K., Morris, A., Mohile, S., & Ramsdale, E. (2018). Pharmacist-led medication assessment and deprescribing intervention for older adults with cancer and polypharmacy: A pilot study. Supportive Care in Cancer, 26(12), 4105-4113.