Background: Poorly executed transfers of older patients from hospitals to long-term care facilities carry the risk of fragmentation of care, poor clinical outcomes, inappropriate use of emergency department services, and hospital readmission.
Objective: This study was conducted to assess the impact of adding a pharmacist transition coordinator on evidence-based medication management and health outcomes in older adults undergoing first-time transfer from a hospital to a long-term care facility.
Methods: This randomized, single-blind, controlled trial enrolled hospitalized older adults awaiting transfer to a long-term residential care facility for the first time. Patients were randomized either to receive the services of the pharmacist transition coordinator (intervention group) or to undergo the usual hospital discharge process (control group). The intervention included medication-management transfer summaries from hospitals, timely coordinated medication reviews by accredited community pharmacists, and case conferences with physicians and pharmacists. The primary outcome was the quality of prescribing, measured using the Medication Appropriateness Index (MAI). Secondary outcomes were emergency department visits, hospital readmissions, adverse drug events, falls, worsening mobility, worsening behaviors, increased confusion, and worsening pain.
Results: One hundred ten older adults (67 women, 43 men; mean [SD] age, 82.7 [6.4] years) were recruited from 3 metropolitan hospitals and assigned to 85 metropolitan long-term care facilities. Fifty-six patients were randomized to the intervention group and 54 to the control group; 44 patients in each group were evaluable at 8-week follow-up. There were no significant differences in baseline characteristics between treatment groups, with the exception of the number of medications discontinued during hospitalization: a mean of 1.1 more drugs was discontinued in the control group compared with the intervention group (P = 0.011). The majority of patients (35 [62.5%] in the intervention group, 41 [76.0%] in the control group) changed physicians as part of the transition to a long-term care facility. At 8-week follow-up, there was no change in MAI from baseline in the intervention group, whereas it had worsened in the control group (mean [95% CI], 2.5 [1.4-3.7] vs 6.5 [3.9-9.1], respectively; P = 0.007). Patients who received the intervention and were alive at follow-up exhibited a significant protective effect of the intervention against worsening pain (relative risk ratio [95% CI], 0.55 [0.32-0.94]; P = 0.023) and hospital usage (i.e., the combination of emergency department visits and hospital readmissions) (0.38 [0.15-0.99]; P = 0.035), but did not differ from control patients in terms of adverse drug events (1.05 [0.66-1.68]), falls (1.19 [0.71-1.99]), worsening mobility (0.39 [0.13-1.15]), worsening behaviors (0.52 [0.25-1.10]), or increased confusion (0.59 [0.28-1.22]). When data for patients who had died were included, the intervention had no effect on hospital usage in all patients (0.58 [0.28-1.21]).
Conclusions: Older people transferring from hospital to a long-term care facility are vulnerable to fragmentation of care and adverse events. In this study, use of a pharmacist transition coordinator improved aspects of inappropriate use of medicines across health sectors.