Helping older people manage their prescribed medicines after they leave the hospital reduces their risk of readmission, researchers say.
Many older patients take multiple medicines and these often change after a hospital stay. This can cause misunderstandings that result in patients taking too much or too little of their medications, or not taking them at all, the authors of the new study noted.
This can lead to serious problems and readmission to the hospital, according to the research team from the University of Bradford, in the United Kingdom.
"When you're in hospital, everything is done for you, so for older people, being sent home and suddenly having to look after yourself can be a real shock," said study leader Justine Tomlinson, a doctoral fellow in the School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences. "We know patients need more tailored support during this critical time."
For the new study, Tomlinson and her colleagues analyzed 24 studies that included more than 17,500 hospitalized seniors. The researchers found that patients were less likely to be readmitted if they had help with their medication for three months after leaving the hospital.
That assistance included working with patients to help them better manage their medications and following up with them by phone for at least 90 days, according to the study published recently in the journal Age and Ageing.
In another approach that reduced hospital readmissions, a health professional -- such as a pharmacist -- reviewed previous prescriptions from a patient's doctor and medications prescribed at the hospital in order to identify any omissions or conflicts.
The patient or caregiver should also be included in the process, Tomlinson suggested.
"The medicine-related harm that older patients are exposed to on discharge is serious and avoidable, yet they often feel they have to accept these problems as a fact of life as they get older," she said in a university news release. "Our research shows that it doesn't have to be that way."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers a medicines guide for older adults.