A four-state research collaboration is investigating embedding pharmacists in residential aged care facilities to improve the use of psychotropic medications among residents with dementia.

Monash University’s Centre for Medicine Use and Safety is conducting the four-year trial in partnership with the University of Queensland, Flinders University and University of Sydney and with a $2 million Medical Research Future Fund grant.

It will involve pharmacists working as knowledge brokers with five residential aged care providers across Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland to implement evidence-based recommendations to ensure safe and effective use of psychotropic medications for residents with dementia.

The knowledge brokers will work with nurses, general practitioners, aged care staff and residents and their families to provide training in managing changed behaviours and to coordinate education using evidence-based resources.

Project lead Professor Simon Bell said the project was important because there were currently high rates of psychotropic medication use in aged care.

“There’s good evidence that psychotropic medications are not necessarily effective but they are associated with a high risk of harm.

“We’re interested in exploring new ways to translate evidence from clinical practice guidelines to ensure that medicines are used safely and effectively,” Professor Bell told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Simon Bell

The five residential aged care providers in the study collectively provide care to 4,500 residents across 52 facilities. Aged care homes will be randomly placed into one of three groups to test different implementation strategies, said Professor Bell, director of the Centre for Medicine Use and Safety.

“Those strategies are the knowledge broker, a pharmacist-led quality use of medicines service, and passive distribution of both hardcopy and electronic guideline materials.”

The project is an extension of Monash University’s work developing guidelines to assist the appropriate use of psychotropic medications for people living with dementia, he said.

Project investigator and Monash University CMUS research fellow Dr Amanda Cross said the research team would apply new data-driven strategies to develop a model of continuous quality improvement.

Amanda Cross

“This will include digital health applications and benchmarking using new quality indicators,” she said.

University of Queensland senior lecturer and fellow project investigator Dr Adam La Caze will help co-design the intervention based on the structural pillars of a learning health system.

Other project partners include the New South Wales Therapeutic Advisory Group and specialist aged care pharmacy providers Gunn & McConville in Victoria and Aspect Health in Queensland.

The study is expected to commence later this year.

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