A Canadian study shows an app could help health professionals deprescribe unnecessary medications for senior citizens. (freestocks.org/Unsplash)

Canadian study shows app could help senior citizens with too many medications

Research team at McGill University shows app helps identify unnecessary medications

  • Oct. 27, 2019 2:30 p.m.

An app called MedSafer could help doctors and pharmacists reduce the amount of potentially unnecessary medications Canadian seniors take on a daily basis, according to a study from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC).

Senior Canadians are frequently prescribed multiple medications for different health conditions at the same time. This practice can be costly, inconvenient, and even harmful for seniors, as well as time-consuming for health professionals and pharmacists.

Dr. Emily McDonald, a physician, one of the study’s authors, and scientist at the RI-MUHC, says some medications cause memory problems and increase the risk of falls, hip fracture, and trips to the emergency department. “Performing a prescription check-up and stopping medications that might be problematic is important for seniors so they can maintain their independence, mobility and cognition,” McDonald said.

READ ALSO: Saanich Police, Victoria Fire searching for elderly man with Alzheimer’s

The study took place in four internal medicine clinical teaching units in hospitals in Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto between September 2016 and May 2017. There were 1,066 participants, all 65 years and older and all taking five or more medications at home at the time of their admission to hospital. All participants were already hospitalized before being asked to participate in the study.

Of the participants, 418 received usual care (the control group) and 455 were assessed with the help of the MedSafer app (the intervention group). The clinical teams were allowed to choose whether or not to act on the “depresecribing opportunity” reports generated by the app that identified potentially innappropriate medications patients were being prescribed.

Researchers took variables including age, sex, language, frailty and the number of drugs the participants were taking prior to hospitalization into consideration to make sure the results were able to accurately tell them whether or not the app worked as hypothesized.

READ ALSO: Central Saanich hosts NEAT program to help seniors connect with each other

The researchers were able to identify and deprescribe medications for 54.7 per cent of patients in the intervention group on discharge from hospital, an increase of 8.3 per cent compared to the control group.

Researchers also interviewed 410 patients one month after discharge from hospital and observed no increase in adverse incidents related to stopping medications identified as unnecessary by MedSafer. This means these patients were safely able to reduce the number of medications they were taking.

The research team is now working with 6,000 patients in 11 hospitals across Canada in a larger study to test the efficacy of the MedSafer app in preventing adverse drug events.

sophie.heizer@saanichnews.com


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