Researchers in Fredericton say they have developed an app to help flag and reduce potentially inappropriate or unnecessary use of medications in nursing homes.
As CBC News reported last week, data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information show about 30 per cent of nursing home residents in New Brunswick were given antipsychotic drugs last year without a corresponding diagnosis.
Around half of the long-term care residents nationwide are taking 10 or more medications at the same time, said Cody Davenport, research co-ordinator at the Centre for Innovation and Research in Aging.
It's a private research company located on the York Care Centre campus in Fredericton that was formed in 2018 and has so far done research on topics such as medication management, emotional well-being and cognitive ability.
"Of course, physicians are busy, nurses are busy. So we're always looking for ways to kind of help streamline the medication review process and help them out in any way that we can," he said.
In New Brunswick, nursing home residents are re-assessed every three months, said Davenport.
The MedReviewRX app is a tool that can be used by doctors and nurses during that process, he said. It cross-references patient profiles and prescriptions and sends an alert to the medical team when something doesn't match up.
"It would generate a nice little report for each resident," he said, "which basically would say, 'OK, Cody is on these medications. Potentially these ones are inappropriate. Maybe they could be reduced, maybe they could be stopped altogether.'"
The report also provides some reasoning, he said, as well as "refreshers or reminders" about how a particular medication can be safely scaled down.
Five homes in southern New Brunswick are part of a pilot project using the app, said Davenport, including York Care Centre in Fredericton, Loch Lomond Villa in Saint John, Shannex Embassy Hall in Quispamsis, and the Spence Nursing Home and Faubourg du Mascaret in Moncton.
"It's been really helpful," said Danielle Kent, research co-ordinator at Loch Lomond Villa, where a six-month trial just wrapped up.
Kent's role with the project included making sure the MedReviewRX reports were available and getting first-hand impressions of those using it.
The reviews are good, she said, from care staff, the pharmacist, the nurse practitioner and physicians.
"It's a great way for the medical review team to look at the different medications that residents are on, to identify any that might be a little bit harmful or just no longer needed," Kent said.
Getting off of those medications can improve quality of life, she said, and reduce falls.
Some "great suggestions" for individual resident care plans have come out of it, she said. And the instructions for safe tapering off were especially handy.
"I think that we would love to see it be sustained."
Results of the pilot should be available by March, said Davenport.
The pilot was funded through the provincial Healthy Seniors initiative, said Davenport, and the money is about to run out.
The cost of keeping the program going would include fees to keep the system information up to date. Davenport hopes the program can continue and be rolled out on a larger scale.