Medication Lapses in Health Care System Pose Risk for One in Four Older Patients Entering Home Health Care

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Evidence-Based, National Home Care Quality Improvement Initiative Shown to Enhance Medication Management

New York, NY – About 28 percent of elderly patients were found to be at risk for harmful medication interactions or drug duplications when they were admitted to home care, according to a new study by the Center for Home Care Policy & Research.

The study also found that during the course of a home care episode, nearly a quarter of patients age 65+ experienced one or more symptoms or signs of a problem or complication related to their drug regimen. Medication-related problems – including falls related to anti-anxiety drugs, and weakness or confusion related to certain cardiac drugs – were targeted so that home care staff could take preventive action. 

“Older home care patients often have more than one chronic condition and multiple doctors who prescribe multiple medications, including new prescriptions following a hospitalization,” said Penny H. Feldman, Ph.D., director of the Center for Home Care Policy & Research (the Center), Visiting Nurse Service of New York.

Patients with chronic illness take as many as six to eight medications, with 20 percent taking nine or more medications, when they first enter into home care. Each additional medication increases the risk of an adverse interaction between two or more drugs, including over-the-counter preparations.

“Home care nurses and nurse managers are uniquely positioned to reconcile patients’ entire medication regimen – both prescription and over-the-counter drugs – when they transition into home care, and to watch for signs of medication-related problems over time,” said Dr. Feldman. “However, frontline nurses often lack the necessary tools, information and clinical guidance to consistently perform these critical assessments.”

The Center launched the Geriatric CHAMP (Curricula for Homecare Advances in Management and Practice) Program to test whether state-of-the-art training and support in medication management and quality improvement would empower staff and lead to better practice.

“The good news,” reported Dr. Feldman, “is that our data show that CHAMP’s evidence-based, medication management training makes a marked difference in the capacity of home care agencies to minimize older patients’ medication risks.”

The Center’s medication risk findings are based on data from 3300 patient records examined as part of evaluating the medication course of the CHAMP Program. The data come from the patients of 165 frontline nurse managers in 50 home care agencies across the nation (see list below) who graduated from the Geriatric Medication Management course. CHAMP, spearheaded by the Center since 2005 and funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies and The John A. Hartford Foundation going forward, is the first national, evidence-based geriatric quality improvement initiative in home care.   

“The Institute of Medicine listed medication management as a top priority for improving the nation’s health care quality nearly a decade ago. Our evidence shows that home care agencies face many challenges as they seek to incorporate consistent, comprehensive medication management into daily practice,” said Dr. Feldman. “Nevertheless, significant improvements are achievable.” 

The CHAMP evaluation compiled systematic medication management data from CHAMP participants before and after they completed the 10-month CHAMP medication course. Patient records showed significant improvement on key medication management measures.

Comprehensive medication assessments increased from half of older patients to 76 percent.
Identification of possible signs of a medication-related complication, such as serious bruising in a patient taking a blood thinning medication, increased from less than half the time to 60 percent.
Alerting patients’ doctors to potentially harmful drug interactions or duplication of drugs increased from 45 to 70 percent.
Overall, these improvements ranged from 30 to 56 percent compared to care prior to CHAMP participation. 

CHAMP’s Geriatric Medication Management course addresses key issues of medication management, including: medication reconciliation; medication errors and adverse drug events; medications inappropriate for use by older adults; drug/drug interactions; helping patients adhere to their medication regimen; and communicating with physicians about medication-related problems.

The CHAMP program also includes a course devoted to improving geriatric pain management. This year the CHAMP program expanded and is establishing a national Community of Practice for geriatric homecare excellence. The Community will be based on the nation’s first evidence-based recommendations specific to geriatric homecare.

Home Care Agencies that Participated in the CHAMP Geriatric Medication Management Course


Butte Home Health and Hospice                                    Chico

Central Coast VNA & Hospice                                      Monterey

Sierra Nevada Home Care                                             Grass Valley

Sutter VNA & Hospice                                                 Emeryville

Tahoe Forest Home Health Services                              Truckee

UC Davis Home Care Services                                      Sacramento



Day Kimball Hospital Home Care & Hospice                 Putnam

Interim Healthcare                                                        Wallingford

Visiting Nurse and Health Services of CT                       Vernon

VNA Community Healthcare                                         Guilford

VNA Health Care, Inc.                                                 Hartford

VNA of South Central Connecticut                                New Haven



Visiting Nurse Corporation of Colorado               Denver



Blessing Home Care                                                      Quincy

US Home Health Care                                                  Chicago



VNA of Pottawattamie County                          Council Bluffs



Baystate VNA & Hospice                                             Springfield

Greater Medford VNA                                                  Medford

Home Health VNA                                                       Lawrence

VNA Care Network                                                      Worcester

VNA of Boston                                                             Charlestown

VNA of Southeastern Massachusetts                             Fall River



Hackley Visiting Nurse Services & Hospice                   Muskegon

Superior Home Nursing & Hospice                                Hancock



Minnesota Visiting Nurse Agency                                  Minneapolis

North Memorial Home Health & Hospice                       Robbinsdale



VNA of Omaha                                                            Omaha


New Hampshire

Rockingham VNA & Hospice                                        Exeter

Souhegan Home & Hospice Care                                   Milford


New Jersey

VNA of Central Jersey                                                  Red Bank


New York

Community Health Center                                              Johnston

Visiting Nurse Service of New York                              New York

VNA of Central New York                                           Syracuse



Caring Visiting Nurse & Hospice (ProMedica)                Toledo



Covenant Home Care                                                    Pottsville

VNA of Pottstown and Vicinity                          Wyomissing


Rhode Island

VNA of Care New England                                           Warwick



VNA of Texas                                                              Dallas



VNA & Hospice of Vermont and New Hampshire         White River Junction



Horizon Home Care & Hospice, Inc.                              Brown Deer

Home Health United                                                      Madison

Kenosha VNA, Inc.                                                      Kenosha

Ministry Home Care                                                      Marshfield

St. Vincent Home Health Care                                       Green Bay

University Hospital Home Health Agency                       Middleton

Wheaton Franciscan Home Health & Hospice                Milwaukee

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