Dana McMahon: HomeMeds program showing immediate value for older Vermonters

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Southwestern Vermont Council on Aging recently invested in HomeMeds, a nationally-recognized, evidence-based medication management system designed to help individuals better manage their medications, and the decision is paying immediate dividends for older Vermonters served by the agency.

To provide a bit of background information, HomeMeds is a product of the Partners in Care Foundation, and is a multi-step process and supporting software package that works to assess an individual's existing medications — including old or outdated medications, and provide closer, ongoing monitoring of these medications after enrollment in the program.

The program, which only enrolls clients by consent only, also calls for medical provider intervention when needed, and works to better produce cohesive recommendations via a client's physicians and a geriatric pharmacist.

The goal? From a broad view, it's simple. To help prevent adverse medication interactions and other unintended medication impacts that can result in added health complications and potential hospital readmission or extended hospitalization.

Just days after SVCOA's roll-out of HomeMeds to clients in Rutland and Bennington counties, the program showed its worth.

SVCOA's registered nurse options counselor met with an elderly couple to discuss a number of concerns they had around various issues, including that the husband had been falling regularly and was consistently tired.

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During the visit, our RN completed a baseline HomeMeds screening which showed that the husband was being prescribed multiple blood pressure and heart medications simultaneously by both his cardiologist and primary physician.

The client was found to be taking two to three times the recommended dosage of each of these medications. The RN immediately contacted the client's medical providers who were unaware of the overlapping, duplicative prescriptions due to challenges around electronic medical record integration.

Ultimately, the issue was resolved through proper communication and decision-making among the various parties caring for the client, and a potential greater problem was avoided. The client and his wife were so thankful for this visit, and that the issue was identified and resolved.

According to PICF, more than 11,000 older adults have had their medications screened for potential risks via the HomeMeds program since 2011. Alarmingly, over 40 percent of those screened had potential problems.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that each year there are nearly 100,000 emergency hospitalizations for adverse drug events in the U.S. among adults age 65 and older, and adults age 65 and older are twice as likely as others to come to the emergency room for adverse drug events.

In short, medication management among older Vermonters can be a truly significant issue, compounded by potentially dangerous mixes of prescriptions and over the counter drugs both old and new. And while the effects of medication mismanagement can be serious, the early results of our new HomeMeds program bode well for limiting such adverse outcomes moving forward, an outlook that we are excited about here at SVCOA.

Dana McMahon is Rutland County aging services director for the Southwestern Vermont Council on Aging.


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