New partnership to educate Midland seniors and reduce the risk of drug overload

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Seniors struggling with medication management will benefit from funding from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to implement a two-phase grant to combat drug overload in the community. Both funding opportunities focus on regional overhaul of policies and practices to ensure that the most appropriate drugs are prescribed to reduce health risks for older people.

To implement the new program, MidMichigan Health partnered with the Michigan Health Improvement Alliance (MiHIA) to roll out the program. This collaboration further supports our core elements of quality and safety and community and helps us live our goal of creating healthy communities – together.


“The risk of having an adverse effect on the elderly increases with each additional medicine taken. Taking too much medication can cause side effects like dizziness, confusion, and even increase the risk of harmful events like falling. It can also lead to drug interactions that can cause your medications to not work quite the way we would expect them to, ”said Sasha Savage, medical director of the Family Practice Center at MidMichigan Medical Center – Midland and chief health officer of THRIVE (Transforming Health Regionally in a Vibrant Economy), an effort by MiHIA and the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance to improve health and economic outcomes in the region.

In fact, every year millions of older Americans are injured due to the over-prescribing of drugs as well as the use of drugs deemed unsafe by the elderly. The name for this is polypharmacy, or drug overload, and is defined as the use of five or more drugs at a time.

“We see the risk of polypharmacy increasing with age. It is common for older people to suffer from one or more conditions that require drug treatment. At the same time, natural changes in the body can impact how a drug works, the most effective dose, and how the drug will be metabolized or eliminated from the body, making education and awareness vitally important, ”said Savage.

Both practices can lead to widespread direct harm and create adverse drug events (ADEs) that result in unnecessary patient costs and increase the risk of further medical intervention. Unfortunately, in the United States, there is no national or state program to address drug overload, no systematic effort to teach prescribers how to avoid or improve risk, and no unified effort to support patients and caregivers through public awareness.

To support this important patient safety and education initiative, MidMichigan Health is committed to making it a top priority for the healthcare system. Much progress has already been made, including:

  • Establishment of a multidisciplinary core team to design a safe prescription program for our patients aged 65 and over to reduce dangerous drug overload. The team is led by Shannon Martin, family medicine provider and champion of project providers.
  • Implemented in the electronic medical record program to collect robust data to help identify patients at risk for drug overload. The version was created by MidMichigan’s Innovation Analytics team led by Sarah Travis.
  • Development of provider training on prescribing practices and interventions to help reduce the risk of drug overload for patients in the MidMichigan health system.

Those interested in more information about this initiative and the work MiHIA is doing to combat drug overload in the elderly can visit www.mihia.org/programs/improve-medication-use.


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