By: Allison Boulware, RN, manager, national account nurse liaison for Guardian Pharmacy Services

Every year in the U.S. 1.3 million seniors are injured by medication and 200,000 are hospitalized due to harmful drug reactions. Medication management is one of the primary reasons seniors move to assisted living and is arguably the most critical service your community provides.

The key to success: continuously improve processes so that staff are more comfortable, confident, efficient and effective. To help drive success:

  1. Use the Experts to Check, Double Check
    Many new residents arrive at a community with a medication profile that includes prescriptions from multiple physicians in different practice areas. A pharmacy with geriatric care expertise can help you ensure residents’ medication regimens are safe and effective. They should:

    • Perform a medication review upon resident arrival and when a new med is added
    • Identify potential drug interactions
    • Recommend discontinued use of potentially harmful medications
    • Review the history of meds given “as needed” to determine if the drug provides the desired outcome
    • Examine labs, if available, to see how the medication regimen is impacting the resident’s health
  2. Embrace the Latest Technology
    The adoption of technologies, e.g., Electronic Health Records and eMARs reduce medication errors keeping residents safer and eliminating community risk. When the system interfaces directly with a pharmacy provider, communities can:

    • Improve accuracy through E-prescribing by removing the potential for error when MARs are hand transcribed
    • Provide caregivers with access to patient data anytime
    • Make ordering medications simpler, creating a portable medication profile including history
    • Save significantly per month, per resident, by increasing staff med pass efficiency
    • Always backup systems and make sure disaster recovery plans are in place

    Additionally, automated compliance medication packaging reduces errors and simplifies dispensing, and barcoding technology guarantees medications are delivered to the right resident at the right time.

  3. Offer Ongoing Staff Education
    Rapidly changing technologies, staff turnover, regulations and care techniques often leave assisted living staff struggling to keep up with industry shifts while balancing daily job responsibilities. To stay current:

    • Ask your pharmacy provider to hold regular training sessions and continuing education courses
    • Maintain open communication with community leaders to uncover issues staff members are facing and tailor educational programs to focus on these areas
    • Recognize that well-educated staff members are more effective and confident in their positions and more likely to be satisfied in their jobs. This means less turnover and increased resident safety
  4. Choose One Pharmacy Partner to Support Your Individual Community
    Multiple pharmacies in one community can lead to medication errors, reorder issues, difficulty implementing technology like eMARs, staff stress and unnecessary labor costs. To minimize these risks:

    • Establish a relationship with a single preferred pharmacy who can help your residents use its services to solve the issues related to the complicated medication management process
    • Encourage transition to your select pharmacy by ensuring it specializes in assisted living and provides dedicated customer service and comprehensive resources – including sessions for residents and their families to learn about the pharmacy and easy-to-access local billing support
    • Determine which pharmacy offers the best individualized customer service for the specific needs of each home as there is no cost benefit to selecting a group-wide provider

    When you partner with a preferred provider that understands your unique needs, staff members will receive the tools to better perform accurate and efficient medication management, and residents will be safer.

Many seniors transition to assisted living because they are struggling with managing their own medications. Knowing this service is provided with the utmost focus on safety is a tremendous relief for residents and their families. By collaborating with your pharmacy provider, an assisted living community takes an active, innovative role to mitigate medication errors and better its quality of care.