Published on September 28, 2021

New Partnership Helps Educate Seniors, Reduce Risk of Medication Overload

Seniors struggling with medication management will benefit from funding by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to implement a two-phase grant to address medication overload in the community. Both funding opportunities focus on the regional redesign of policies and practices to ensure that the most appropriate medications are prescribed that reduce health risks for older adults.

To implement the new program, MidMichigan Health has partnered with the Michigan Health Improvement Alliance (MiHIA) to roll-out the program. This collaboration further supports our foundational elements of Quality & Safety and Community and helps us live our purpose of Creating Healthy Communities – Together.

“The risk for seniors of experiencing a harmful effect increases with every additional medication taken. Taking too many medications can cause side effects like dizziness, confusion, and even increase the risk for harmful events like falling. It may also lead to drug interactions that can cause your medications to not work quite like we would expect them to,” said Sasha Savage, M.D., medical director of the Family Practice Center at MidMichigan Medical Center – Midland and the chief health officer for THRIVE (Transforming Health Regionally in a Vibrant Economy), an effort of MiHIA and the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance aimed at improving health and economic outcomes in the region.

In fact, each year, millions of older Americans are injured due to the overprescribing of medications as well as the use of medications deemed dangerous to seniors. The name for this is polypharmacy, or medication overload, and is defined as the use of five or more medications at once.

“We see the risk of polypharmacy increase with age. It is common for seniors to have one or more conditions that require treatment with medications. At the same time, the natural changes in the body can impact how a medication works, what dose is most effective, and how the medication will be metabolized or cleared out of the body, making education and awareness vitally important,” said Dr. Savage.

Both practices can result in widespread direct harm and create adverse drug events (ADE) that drive unnecessary costs to the patient and increase the risk of further medical intervention. Unfortunately, in the U.S., there is no national or state program to address medication overload, no systematic effort to teach prescribers how to avoid or improve the risk, and no unified effort to support patients and caregivers through public awareness.

To support this important patient safety and education initiative, MidMichigan Health has committed to making this a top priority for the health system. Much progress has already been made, including the:

  • Establishment of a multidisciplinary core team to design a safe prescribing program for our patients age 65 and older to reduce dangerous medication overload. The team is led by Shannon Martin, D.O., family medicine provider and project provider champion.
  • Implementation into the electronic medical record program to gather robust data to help identify those patients at risk for medication overload. The build was created by MidMichigan’s Innovation Analytics team led by Sarah Travis.
  • Development of provider training around prescribing practices and interventions to help decrease the risk for medication overload for our patients across our health system.

Those interested in more information on this initiative and the work MiHIA is doing to address medication overload in older adults may visit