JAPhA study shows importance of involving family members in medication management

Research shows a direct relationship between the number of medications taken and the need for assistance in managing medication use.

Poor medication management, particularly in patients who are taking more than one medication to manage chronic disease, can lead to poor therapeutic outcomes and increased health care costs. Previous research has shown that many adults, particularly those with physical or mental limitations, receive assistance with one or more phases of medication management. To determine the type of medication management such patients are likely to receive, a patient-centered medical home family practice clinic in an inner city university hospital in Brooklyn, NY, surveyed patients 40 years or older during their regular clinic visit to see the primary care physician.

In the study, published online in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, patients were asked about three challenges: who ensures that they have their medication at home, who arranges their medications to ensure they are taken properly, and who reminds them to take their medications or hands the medications to them. Of the 143 patients surveyed, 61 patients (~43%) received assistance in one or more of these phases of medication management.  The majority of patients received assistance from a family member, particularly with arranging medications (~85%) and reminding the patient to take the medication at the correct time (~74%). Approximately 40% of patients indicated that their pharmacist helped them ensure that they have medication at home. Study results indicated that when the patients’ age and education level were controlled, the number of medications was a moderately strong predictor of the need for assistance.

The study authors conclude that family members who assist in medication management should be included in regular discussions with patients to improve communication about appropriate medication management and administration.