Researchers develop tools to identify patients at risk of medication harm

A University of Queensland research collaboration will look at reducing the risk of harm from medication for inpatients and those leaving hospital to return home.

Dr Nazanin Ghahreman-Falconer from UQ's School of Pharmacy is working with Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) and using digital hospital technologies to better manage medications for inpatients and reduce rehospitalization due to medication harm.

Rehospitalization is a pressing health challenge – in Queensland alone up to 25 per cent of adult patients are re-admitted to hospital within 28 days. Being discharged from hospital can leave patients vulnerable, and confusion about medications can lead to serious complications such as falls, bleeding, and rehospitalization."

Dr Ghahreman-Falconer, University of Queensland

"Around 90 per cent of patients have changes to their medication regimen whilst in hospital which can cause issues if not communicated clearly to patients and their GPs, specialists or primary care providers.

"As well as adverse outcomes for the patient, rehospitalization places a huge burden on the healthcare system so our aim is to find solutions."

Dr Ghahreman-Falconer is working with Associate Professor Michael Barras from PAH on the RECARD Study, using predictive modelling to try to prevent rehospitalization after a heart attack.

It involves developing digital tools to help clinicians identify cardiac patients most at risk of being readmitted to hospital due to medication harm.

Dr Ghahreman-Falconer said the focus is on the most vulnerable patients, including better supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

"The first phase is consulting with community stakeholders on a prediction model to identify people at risk of rehospitalization, as well as development of a toolkit to deliver tailored medication management and support when patients are discharged," she said.

A second project with PAH involves using hospital data and artificial intelligence to identify patients at risk of medication harm, to provide early and targeted intervention during their hospital stay.

"In previous research we developed a model for dosing high-risk medications such as heparin, commonly used to treat blood clotting, but is challenging to dose accurately," Dr Ghahreman-Falconer said.

"We are now working on developing an app embedded in the hospital's electronic systems to help guide doctors when prescribing intravenous heparin.

"These tools can help clinicians work smarter and deliver timely care to those who need it the most.

"This will mean better and safer health outcomes for patients."

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