Here, in the last of a two-part series, Dr Nirvana Luckraj shares more medication management advice – firstly, how to avoid medication overload.
Medication overload – also known as polypharmacy – can occur for various reasons and could be the fault of from the prescriber, patient or carer.
From a prescriber’s perspective reasons for medication overload can be because of :
- a lack of complete patient information – prescribers may not have access to a complete medical history or information about other medications the patient is taking, leading to potential interactions and medication overload. This could occur if your prescriber is not your regular doctor
- a disease-focused approach – prescribers may have a tendency to treat individual diseases rather than considering the whole person, leading to multiple prescriptions for different conditions
- limited time spent with patients – in a busy clinical setting, there may be limited time for discussion and consideration of a patient’s overall medication regimen, leading to medication overload.
From a patient’s perspective reasons for medication overload can include:
- a fear of stopping medication – patients may be afraid of stopping medication they have been taking for a long time, even if it may be no longer necessary or appropriate
- a limited understanding of medications – patients may have limited knowledge of their medications, including potential interactions and side effects, leading to medication overload
- multiple healthcare providers – patients who see multiple healthcare providers may receive conflicting or duplicate medication prescriptions.
From a carer’s perspective reasons for medication overload can include:
- limited information from healthcare providers– carers may not receive complete information from healthcare providers about the medications being taken by the patient, leading to potential medication errors
- carers may have difficulty managing a complex medication regimen, leading to potential errors and medication overload
- carers may have limited knowledge of the medications being taken by the patient, including potential interactions and side effects, leading to medication overload.
All of the above barriers can lead to medication overload and increase the risk of adverse drug events in older individuals. Regular medication review and communication between all parties involved can help prevent and mitigate the risk of medication overload.
Using tech tools to keep track of medications
Tele-consultation and technology tools can play a significant role in managing medications and avoiding adverse drug events.
Here are a few examples of electronic prescribing and medication administration systems that allow healthcare providers to electronically prescribe medications and monitor their administration.
My Health Record is a national digital health platform that allows individuals to view and manage their health information online. It is accessible by authorised healthcare providers and can be used to keep track of medications, allergies, and other health information.
There are many mobile apps that can also help individuals manage their medications, set reminders, and track side effects.
Tele-consultations can be used to conduct virtual medicine reviews where patients can discuss their medications with their healthcare providers and receive guidance on managing their medications effectively.
Healthdirect’s online medicines information service
Healthdirect’s government-funded online medicines information service aims to reduce confusion about and potential misuse of medicines by making information about medicines easy-to-understand, consumer-friendly and readily searchable.
The medicines information service provides access to safe, reliable, up-to-date, local information about medicines, supporting people’s health literacy and ability to safely and confidently manage their own health.
It has more than 8,000 pages of information about medicines registered for use in Australia – the most comprehensive Australian medicines catalogue available online.
People – both the general public and healthcare professionals – can search for medicines by brand name or active ingredient. The information is updated monthly and includes:
- a description of the medicine
- the conditions it is used to treat or prevent
- how to store it
- its form – tablet, capsule, ointment, cream or injection
- how it is administered and if there have been any recalls.
The service also provides information about specific categories of medicines, the differences between generic and brand name medicines and safety advice for taking medicines.
Dr Nirvana Luckraj is chief medical officer for Healthdirect Australia, which provides 24/7 health information, advice and referrals.
Read the first part of this series here