Illinois runs a Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP). Its purpose is to electronically organize information on the use of prescribed controlled substances, and its goal is to reduce the abuse of prescription drugs by state residents. By organizing the information electronically, pharmacies and any other dispensers of these substances and medications have the capability to see the prescription history of a patient and ensure that prescriptions are not dispensed excessively or inappropriately more than what doctors actually prescribe. It also allows prescribers and dispensers to use the information to ensure there is no dangerous mixing of medications. In 2013, the system gathered information on 16 million prescriptions and 22,000 doctors and pharmacists. Each month there were approximately 150,000 searches within the system, showing its usage. The system also interfaces with national networks to ensure greater sharing of information. Now this system is being expanded to nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
Just this past week, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced a new program to specifically deal with prescription drug abuse in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The program is called the Prescription Monitoring Program Long Term Care (PMP LTC) initiative. In this blog we previously discussed the issue of limiting antipsychotic medications in nursing homes, which was not necessarily an issue of illegal drug abuse but nevertheless a concern with the quality of care of patient residents who are pumped with medications to numb them so much that they could not act out in agitated states or violent episodes stemming from their psychological or psychiatric conditions. This particular issue of prescription drugs discussed here is similar in that it touches on the excessive or improper use of drugs, but in this case it is by patients who grow highly dependent on the medications. This problem is equally dangerous to the health and well-being of patient residents.
Combating Elder Medication Abuse
There has been growing worry over nursing homes’ use of prescription behavioral medications for patient residents. The Long Term Care initiative builds off the state’s existing Prescription Monitoring Program by expanding specifically to nursing homes. It is a joint initiative between the state Department of Public Health and Department of Human Services. As the IDHS’s Secretary Michelle Saddler stated in a recent release, “The Long Term Care initiative is an important step in our efforts to better monitor prescriptions for controlled substances, especially among a vulnerable population such as the aging.”
Like the main program described above, this initiative relies largely on the use of electronic records to monitor prescription drug use. The system collects information for review and now includes downloads of information from nursing homes every week. The information is also organized helpfully to identify who is using the drug and the nursing home where they reside, among other important data. The system can be used to monitor the prescriptions and dispensing of drugs to ensure they do not occur “outside of general community standards” in the medical field. As it aids doctors and pharmacists, nursing home staff can use it to ensure patient residents receive a high level of care and are not overmedicated or improperly medicated.
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