A study recently published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine shows that about 40 percent of seniors who are in the care of a home-health agency are taking prescription medications that may be dangerous to their health.
Researchers conducting the study, led by Dr. Yuhua Bao, assistant professor of public health at Weill Cornell Medical College, found that home-healthcare patients aged 65 and older are prescribed Potentially Inappropriate Medications (PIMs) at rates three times higher than patients who visit a medical office for care. Data from the study show that home-health patients are taking 11 different prescription medications on average, and that the constant intake of several medications is directly related to the presence of PIMs.
In a review of data of 3,124 senior home-health patients, the researchers found 38 percent were taking at least one PIM. Senior patients taking 15 or more medications were five to six times as likely to be prescribed PIMs as patients taking seven or fewer medications.
The researchers said in most cases the problem could be eliminated if patients demanded a comprehensive review of their prescription list with home-healthcare providers to find precisely why each medication is prescribed, whether any could be eliminated and if any are age-inappropriate.
According to the study, the high prevalence of PIMs among elderly home-healthcare patients is a symptom of a fragmented healthcare system. Many separate doctors may be treating a patient for different ailments simultaneously.