Initiative to Minimize Pharmaceutical Risk in Older Veterans (IMPROVE) Polypharmacy Clinic

An interprofessional polypharmacy clinic for intensive management of medication regimens helps high-risk patients manage their medications.

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This article is part of a series that illustrates strategies intended to redesign primary care education at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), using interprofessional workplace learning. All have been implemented in the VA Centers of Excellence in Primary Care Education (CoEPCE). These models embody visionary transformation of clinical and educational environments that have potential for replication and dissemination throughout VA and other primary care clinical educational environments. For an introduction to the series see Klink K. Transforming primary care clinical learning environments to optimize education, outcomes, and satisfaction. Fed Pract. 2018;35(9):8-10.



In 2011, 5 VA medical centers (VAMCs) were selected by the Office of Academic Affiliations (OAA) to establish CoEPCE. Part of the VA New Models of Care initiative, the 5 Centers of Excellence (CoE) in Boise, Idaho; Cleveland, Ohio; San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; and West Haven, Connecticut, are utilizing VA primary care settings to develop and test innovative approaches to prepare physician residents and students, advanced practice nurse residents and undergraduate nursing students, and other professions of health trainees (eg, pharmacy, social work, psychology, physician assistants [PAs], physical therapists) for primary care practice in the 21st century. The CoEs are developing, implementing, and evaluating curricula designed to prepare learners from relevant professions to practice in patient-centered, interprofessional team-based primary care settings. The curricula at all CoEs must address 4 core domains (Table).

Health care professional education programs do not have many opportunities for workplace learning where trainees from different professions can learn and work together to provide care to patients in real time.

Because of the emphasis on patient-centered medical homes (PCMH) and team-based care in the Affordable Care Act, there is an imperative to develop new training models that provide skills to future health professionals to address this gap.1

The VA Connecticut Healthcare System CoEPCE developed and implemented an education and practice-based immersion learning model with physician residents, nurse practitioner (NP) residents and NP students, pharmacy residents, postdoctorate psychology learners, and PA and physical therapy learners and faculty. This interprofessional, collaborative team model breaks from the traditional independent model of siloed primary care providers (PCPs) caring for a panel of patients.


In 2015, OAA evaluators reviewed background documents and conducted open-ended interviews with 12 West Haven CoEPCE staff, participating trainees, VA faculty, VA facility leadership, and affiliate faculty. Informants described their involvement, challenges encountered, and benefits of the Initiative to Minimize Pharmaceutical Risk in Older Veterans (IMPROVE) program to trainees, veterans, and the VA.

Lack of Clinical Approaches to Interprofessional Education and Care

Polypharmacy is a common problem among older adults with multiple chronic conditions, which places patients at higher risk for multiple negative health outcomes.2,3 The typical primary care visit rarely allows for a thorough review of a patient’s medications, much less the identification of strategies to reduce polypharmacy and improve medication management. Rather, the complexity inherent to polypharmacy makes it an ideal challenge for a team-based approach.

Team Approach to Medication Needs

A key CoEPCE program aim is to expand workplace learning instruction strategies and to create more clinical opportunities for CoEPCE trainees to work together as a team to anticipate and address the health care needs of veterans. To address this training need, the West Haven CoEPCE developed IMPROVE to focus on high-need patients and provides a venue in which trainees and supervisors from different professions can collaborate on a specific patient case, using a patient-centered framework. IMPROVE can be easily applied to a range of medication-related aims, such as reducing medications, managing medications and adherence, and addressing adverse effects (AEs). These goals are 2-fold: (1) implement a trainee-led performance improvement project that reduces polypharmacy in elderly veterans; and (2) develop a hands-on, experiential geriatrics training program that enhances trainee skills and knowledge related to safe prescribing.

Related: Pharmacist Interventions to Reduce Modifiable Bleeding Risk Factors Using HAS-BLED in Patients Taking Warfarin (FULL)


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