Intervention to Improve Appropriate Prescribing and Reduce Polypharmacy in Elderly Patients Admitted to an Internal Medicine Unit

Polypharmacy and inappropriate medication prescriptions are associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Most interventions proposed to improve appropriate prescribing are time and resource intensive and therefore hardly applicable in daily clinical practice.


To test the efficacy of an easy-to-use checklist aimed at supporting the therapeutic reasoning of physicians in order to reduce inappropriate prescribing and polypharmacy.


We assessed the efficacy and safety of a 5-point checklist to be used by all physicians on the internal medicine wards of a Swiss hospital by comparing outcomes in 450 consecutive patients aged ≥65 years hospitalized after the introduction of the checklist, and in 450 consecutive patients ≥65 years hospitalized before the introduction of the checklist. The main measures were the proportion of patients with prescription of potentially inappropriate medications (PIMs) at discharge, according to STOPP criteria, and the number of prescribed medications at discharge, before and after the introduction of the checklist. Secondary outcomes were the prevalence of polypharmacy (≥ 5 drugs) and hyperpolypharmacy (≥ 10 drugs), and the prevalence of potentially inappropriate prescribing omissions (PPOs) according to START criteria.


At admission 59% of the 900 patients were taking > 5 drugs, 13% ≥ 10 drugs, 37% had ≥ 1 PIM and 25% ≥ 1 PPO. The introduction of the checklist was associated with a significant reduction by 22% of the risk of being prescribed ≥ 1 PIM at discharge (adjusted risk ratios [RR] 0.78; 95% CI: 0.68-0.94), but not with a reduction of at least 20% of the number of drugs prescribed at discharge, nor with a reduction of the risk of PPOs at discharge.


The introduction of an easy-to-use 5-point checklist aimed at supporting therapeutic reasoning of physicians on internal medicine wards significantly reduced the risk of prescriptions of inappropriate medications at discharge.


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Urfer M
Elzi L
Dell-Kuster S
Bassetti S