Simple works best: Monash University study finds a way to reduce medicine risk for older Australians

Almost one million Australians aged 70+ are regularly taking five or more prescription medicines. The Royal Commission on Aged Care Quality and Safety has highlighted complex medication regimens as a risk to the health and safety of older people. Researchers from Monash University’s Centre for Medicine Use and Safety (CMUS) – leading experts in medicine safety within aged care settings - have discovered a way to simplify medication regimens and reduce medication burden for residents.

Researchers from Monash University’s Centre for Medicine Use and Safety (CMUS) have discovered a novel way to streamline medication regimens in residential aged care, improving outcomes for residents and helping to ease the medication administration process for healthcare workers.

Simon Bell

Optimising medication management is a key concern for the 250,000+ Australians living in residential aged care facilities and with the nation's ageing population rapidly on the rise, medication regimens have also become increasingly complex.

The SIMPLER study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, saw pharmacists, nurses, medical doctors and carers join forces to develop and implement the Medication Regimen Simplification Guide for Residential Aged Care (MRS GRACE). This is a new 5-step process for simplifying medication regimens for the benefit of residents and aged care providers.

The SIMPLER randomised controlled trial involved 242 residents across eight residential aged care facilities in South Australia. Using MRS GRACE, an experienced aged care pharmacist identified that two-thirds of residents could take their medications in a simpler way.

After four months, 62 per cent of the recommendations made by the pharmacist were implemented for identified residents. Follow-up analyses demonstrate the intervention resulted in sustained reductions in the number of daily administration times after 12 months.

Simplification was possible through strategies such as administering medications at the same time, using long-acting rather than shorter-acting products, and using combination rather than multiple single-ingredient formulations.

CMUS Director, Professor Simon Bell, said: “The new medication regimen simplification service trialled in the SIMPLER study is well-suited for delivery by pharmacists working within residential care.”

“Complex medication routines have been associated with a higher likelihood of incidents and errors, and medication incidents are a leading source of complaints to Australia’s Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.”

CMUS Adjunct Research Fellow Dr Janet Sluggett said: “We have an evidence-based strategy for addressing the challenges encountered with complex medication schedules. This intervention could enable more time to be spent on other types of medication management or resident care activities, and we hope to see it implemented more widely in residential aged care.”

The study is part of a wider ongoing collaboration between Monash University and Helping Hand Aged Care to improve medication-related quality of care for recipients of aged care services.

Helping Hand Aged Care’s Director of Research and Development Megan Corlis, said: “The SIMPLER study is an excellent example of how universities can partner with aged care providers to develop a new service that has direct benefits for residents and carers.”

The SIMPLER study was funded through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Cognitive Decline Partnership Centre.

Contact: Divya Krishnan

Phone: 0466910111