JOURNAL ARTICLE

Polypharmacy and hospitalization among older home care patients

J H Flaherty, H M Perry, G S Lynchard, J E Morley
Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 2000, 55 (10): M554-9
11034227

BACKGROUND: One of the major goals of home care is the prevention of hospitalization. The objective of this study was to examine the relation between medication use (number, type, and inappropriateness) and hospitalization among home care patients older than 65 years.

METHODS: A retrospective chart review of 833 discharged older home care patients was performed. These patients were consecutive discharges from a single home care agency who either (a) returned to independent self-care or care of the family (S/F Care group) or (b) were admitted to the hospital (Hospitalized group). Medication assessment within these two groups included total number of medications (prescription and nonprescription); degree of polypharmacy (percentage of patients taking 5 or more, 7 or more, and 10 or more medications); and prevalence for different types of medications, including different types of inappropriate medications. Inappropriate medications were designated according to a list that was previously developed through a modified Delphi consensus technique by a panel of 13 experts in geriatric pharmacology and has been utilized in other studies. Student's t test was used for continuous variables and chi-square test was used for categorical variables to evaluate for differences between the S/F Care group and the Hospitalized group (p <.05). For comparisons of types of medications, p < .01 was used for significant differences, because of the high number of comparisons made.

RESULTS: Of 833 discharges, 644 (77.3%) returned to self-care or care of the Family (S/F Care group) and 189 (22.7%) were hospitalized. The Hospitalized group, compared with the S/F Care group, was taking a higher number of medications (mean +/- SD: 6.6+/-3.9 vs 5.7+/-3.4, p = .004), and had a higher percentage of patients taking 7 or more medications (46% vs 26%, p = .002) and 10 or more medications (21% vs 10%, p = .005), but not 5 or more medications. Only three types of medications were more commonly used among patients in the Hospitalized group than among patients in the S/F Care group: clonidine (4.2% vs 1.1%, p = .004); mineral supplements (23.8% vs 14.8%, p = .003); and metoclopramide (5.8% vs 2.0%, p = .006). The Hospitalized group had a lower percentage of patients taking inappropriate medications than did the S/F Care group (20% vs 27%, p = .040), but none of the types of inappropriate medications was used more often in either group.

CONCLUSIONS: This study shows a relationship between high levels of polypharmacy and hospitalization. Although it cannot be determined from this study whether a higher number of medications was an indicator of sicker patients at risk for hospitalization, or whether a higher number of medications might have directly led to hospitalization, polypharmacy should still be considered a marker for older home care patients for whom prevention of hospitalization is the goal.

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