Objective. To examine the effect of clinical geriatric assessments and collaborative medication review by geriatricians and family physicians on quality of life and other patient outcomes in home-dwelling older adults with polypharmacy.
Design. The study was a single-blind, cluster randomized clinical trial enrolling home-dwelling adults aged 70 years and older who were taking 7 or more medications. Family physicians in Norway were recruited to participate in the trial with their patients. Randomization was at the family physician level to avoid contamination between intervention and control groups.
Setting and participants. The study was conducted in Akershus and Oslo, Norway. Family physicians were recruited to participate in the trial with their patients. A total of 84 family physicians were recruited, of which 70 were included in the trial and randomized to intervention versus control; 14 were excluded because they had no eligible patients. The cluster size of each family physician was limited to 5 patients per physician to avoid large variation in cluster sizes. Patients were eligible for enrollment if they were home-dwelling, aged 70 years or older, and were taking 7 or more systemic medications regularly and had medications administered by the home nursing service. Patients were excluded if they were expected to die or be institutionalized within 6 months, or if they were discouraged from participation by their family physician. A total of 174 patients were recruited, with 87 patients in each group (34 family physicians were in the control group and 36 in the intervention group).
Intervention. The intervention included a geriatric assessment performed by a physician trained in geriatric medicine and supervised by a senior consultant. The geriatric assessment consisted of review of medical history; systematic screening for current problems; clinical examination; supplementary tests, if indicated; and review of each medication being used. The review of medication included the indication for each medication, dosage, adverse effects, and interactions. The geriatric assessment consultation took 1 hour to complete, on average. After the geriatric assessment, the family physician and the geriatrician met to discuss each medication and to establish a collaborative plan for adjustments and follow-up; this meeting was approximately 15 minutes in duration. Lastly, clinical follow-up with the older adult was conducted by the geriatrician or the family physician, as agreed upon in the plan, with most follow-up conducted by the family physician. Participants randomized to the control group received usual care without any intervention.
Main outcome measures. Outcomes were assessed at 16-week and 24-week follow-up. The main study outcome measure was health-related quality of life (HRQoL), as measured by the 15D instrument, at 16 weeks. The quality-of-life measure included the following aspects, each rated on an ordinal scale of 5 levels: mobility, vision, hearing, breathing, sleeping, eating, speech, elimination, usual activities, mental function, discomfort or symptoms, depression, distress, vitality, and sexual activity. The index scale including all aspects is in the range of 0 to 1, with a higher score indicating better quality of life. A predetermined change of 0.015 or more is considered clinically important, and a positive change of 0.035 indicates much better HRQoL. Other outcomes included: appropriateness of medications measured by the Medication Appropriateness Index and the Assessment of Underutilization; physical function (short Physical Performance battery); gait speed; grip strength; cognitive functioning; physical and cognitive disability (Functional Independence Measure); caregiver burden (Relative Stress Scale); physical measures, including orthostatic blood pressure, falls, and weight; hospital admissions; use of home nursing service; incidence of institutionalization; and mortality.
Main results. The study included 174 patients with an average age of 83.3 years (SD, 7.3); 67.8% were women. Of those who were randomized to the intervention and control groups, 158 (90.8%) completed the trial. The average number of regularly used medications was 10.1 (SD, 2.7) in the intervention group and 9.5 (SD, 2.6) in the control group. At week 16 of follow-up, patients in the intervention group had an improved HRQoL score measured by the 15D instrument; the difference between the intervention group and control groups was 0.045 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.004 -0.086; P = 0.03). Medication appropriateness was better in the intervention group, as compared with the control group at both 16 weeks and 24 weeks. Nearly all (99%) patients in the intervention group experienced medication changes, which included withdrawal of medications, dosage adjustment, or new drug regimens. There was a trend towards a higher rate of hospitalization during follow-up in the intervention group (adjusted risk ratio, 2.03; 95% CI, 0.98-4.24; P = 0.06). Other secondary outcomes were not substantially different between the intervention and control groups.
Conclusion. The study demonstrated that a clinical geriatric assessment and collaborative medication review by geriatrician and family physician led to improved HRQoL and improved medication use.