Senior Living Articles

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Safety & Compliance Benefits Are The Root Of Single Pharmacy Resident Adoption

November 10, 2020

Editor’s note: This article is Part II of a deep dive into the issues surrounding polypharmacy versus a single preferred pharmacy provider. Today we focus on how the safety and compliance benefits are motivating seniors to opt in and increasing resident adoption.

Thanks to technology and some very smart people across disciplines from medicine to engineering, there are a million ways to keep senior living residents safe today.

Yet, old men still find ways to wander into the night. And infections still manage to evade even the most watchful eyes of competent nurses.

When technology fails us all, there’s compliance. Compliance to treatment plans, to regulations, and, of course, medications.

And when compliance falters, bad things happen.

Still, safety and compliance remain the best tools providers have to ensure all of the work of healthcare finds a way to produce better outcomes and healthier people.

Today, polypharmacy is wreaking chaos in an industry beset by unprecedented challenges. Many communities struggle to maintain a stable and happy workforce. Greater numbers of new residents are coming through their doors with a level of rising acuity never seen before.

To PharMerica, one of the largest and deeply rooted pharmacy service companies in long-term care, safety and compliance – more than anything else – are convincing assisted living communities to adopt the preferred provider model as a proven way to mitigate the problems caused by polypharmacy. ValueMed is their medication management program designed to address the diverse challenges of assisted living communities.

A snapshot of major risks

Today, nearly 40% of people over the age of 65 take five or more medications — a 70% increase over the past 12 years, according to a recent Harvard research study. (The average senior in that group is on nine.) Forty-two percent suffer from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, requiring a dedicated medication regime. But not only are the seniors now entering assisted living taking more prescription drugs than ever before, they’re getting them from two or more sources.

That’s just for starters.

The prescribing community is losing its ability to manage all of those drugs. Worse, as a recent JAMA study showed, 42% of adults do not tell their primary care physician about their use of supplements – a known culprit in a host of dangerous, and sometimes lethal, drug interactions. All told, adverse drug interactions are the root cause of nearly one-third of all geriatric hospital admissions today.

Supplements and the vast array of over-the-counter (OTC) remedies available today can have equally dangerous consequences. Unlike their peers in skilled nursing, assisted living residents take a substantially higher number of over-the-counter drugs for everything from heartburn to sleep assistance. Many of those medications are never charted or even known by caregivers, and many seniors continue taking them once they are past their “use by” date, unaware they’ve expired.

Opioids, as well as antibiotics and antipsychotics, are now under mounting scrutiny and are linked to growing numbers of costly hospital readmissions, which can expose assisted living operators to a host of problems.

The senior living community, meanwhile, suffers from woeful care coordination issues simply because so much information is falling through the cracks. Compounding matters is the fact that medication management expertise in assisted living is typically low; more than 80% of caregivers are aide-level employees, many of whom are prohibited from administering meds in certain states.

Assisted living staff find themselves wasting valuable time and resources dealing with orders, discrepancies and emergencies, as well as diverse packaging and billing systems involving multiple pharmacies.

Why the single pharmacy concept is gaining traction

PharMerica’s current effort to convince assisted living communities to mitigate the ravages of polypharmacy is rooted in choice, not mandate. This is the foundation of its current resident adoption pilot initiative, according to Dania Nussbaumer, director of ValueMed Client Services.

Even though regulations give assisted living residents the freedom to choose how and where they obtain their prescribed medications, Nussbaumer and her team are finding the concept of a single preferred pharmacy is not only palatable, but highly desirable. Why?

  • Fewer pharmacies means less complexity, reduced administrative burden, and lower labor costs.
  • A trusted and dependable single pharmacy simplifies compliance and reduces risks such as transcription errors, drug interactions, allergies, and omission errors.
  • A single preferred pharmacy provides convenience and safety for residents and their families, as well as seamless billing and fast customer service.
  • A professional pharmacy better manages opioids and reduces hospital re-admissions.
  • Technologies such as Electronic Health Records (EHR), eMAR (including ValueMed’s own EZ-MAR) and bar-coded point-of-care systems increase safety.
  • A preferred pharmacy program can increase compliance, which helps avoid legal issues caused by a non-compliant med process.

One of the key technological benefits of PharMerica’s ValueMed program is multi-dose packaging, which enables their expert pharmacists to dispense medications in a variety of formats, including blister packs and pouches. The compliance packaging system eliminates risk, reduces medication errors and drives staff efficiencies.

In addition to the consistency in medication services that preferred pharmacy services arrangements provide, communities are finding they also fill serious gaps in expertise and knowledge, providing a stopgap against rising acuity.

ValueMed’s senior living nurse and pharmacist consulting services provide a host of safety and compliance services, including clinical reporting and risk assessments.

At the end of the day, Nussbaumer believes ValueMed’s promise to bring vastly improved resident safety and compliance to the senior living industry will be the true marker of the program’s success. “The sole-source pharmacy arrangement can bring untold benefits to residents and the nurses who care for them every day,” she says.

Partnering with a single preferred pharmacy simplifies medication management, boosts compliance, increases safety and reduces the incidence of Adverse Drug Events. That results in better-served residents, family and staff. Contact us at or 855-637-1755 to learn more.