Helping elderly patients who take multiple medications stay safe and well is the aim of a new outpatients clinic at Tauranga Hospital.
For many older New Zealanders, polypharmacy (taking multiple medications for multiple conditions) is common. 35% of over 65s are prescribed five or more medications, and 8% of over 85s are on 11 or more. In the new clinic, these patients can talk to a pharmacist and, if needed, be assessed by a geriatrician.
“Taking multiple medications may be beneficial for quality of life and staying well, as long as it’s carefully managed,” said Bay of Plenty District Health Board (BOPDHB) Geriatrician Dr Vicky Henstridge. “Research shows 58% of people on five or more medications will suffer an adverse side effect. There’s also a higher risk of falls and other age-related conditions that can lead to hospitalisation.
“Our new outpatient clinic allows people to bring along family or friends and spend up to an hour with a pharmacist discussing all their medications, prescribed and non-prescribed, their benefits, potential side effects and possible changes. At the same time, they can be seen by a geriatrician who may add to the recommendations, arrange appropriate investigations or further review.”
The Bay of Plenty has a high and growing population of older adults. In the Western Bay people can access specialist pharmacist advice and support about their medications through Medwise.
“The new outpatient clinic is designed to complement those existing services,” said Vicky. “People do have their medications reviewed by their GP, often in collaboration with the excellent Medwise service. However, as our population ages, the need for reviews is increasing, and so too is the need for input from a geriatrician.”
Vicky said ultimately the new clinic has been set up to support older people stay well and improve their quality of life. Its progress will be monitored and, depending on its success, the BOPDHB may look to develop a similar clinic at Whakatāne Hospital.