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Improving benzodiazepine prescribing for elderly hospital inpatients using audit and multidisciplinary feedback

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Background: Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed for older people. Inappropriate benzodiazepine prescribing may result in serious adverse effects, including confusion and falls.

Aims: To determine the prevalence and appropriateness of benzodiazepine prescribing for elderly inpatients at nine public hospitals in Victoria, Australia, and to assess the impact of multidisciplinary feedback on quality of benzodiazepine prescribing.

Methods: Clearance for the study was obtained from ethics committees of participating hospitals. Medication charts for 1301 patients aged 65 years and over were reviewed to identify patients prescribed a benzodiazepine. Using an evidence-based indicator of prescribing appropriateness, cross-sectional notes-based audits were conducted at three time points (baseline, 4–8 weeks and 6 months). Feedback of baseline audit results was provided to medical, pharmacy and nursing staff at multidisciplinary meetings. Changes in benzodiazepine prescribing over the following 6 months were assessed.

Results: At baseline, benzodiazepines were prescribed for 36% of patients, and 20% of prescriptions were appropriate. Four to six weeks after feedback, the proportion of patients prescribed a benzodiazepine had not changed significantly (31%, P = 0.125); however, more prescriptions were appropriate (44%, P < 0.0001). For patients who were using a benzodiazepine prior to admission and had a contraindication, there were more attempts to withdraw or reduce the dose (47%vs 21%, P = 0.002) and more prescriptions were for acceptable indications (7.4%vs 2.6%, P = 0.024). Six months after feedback, appropriateness of prescribing remained improved compared with baseline (50%, P = 0.002).

Conclusions: Benzodiazepines were prescribed for approximately one in three elderly hospital inpatients and a large proportion was inappropriate. A multidisciplinary intervention based on audit and feedback improved prescribing and the impact of the intervention was still evident after 6 months. (Intern Med J 2001; 31: 529–535)

Keywords: audit; benzodiazepines; geriatrics; hospital; prescriber feedback; prescribing

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Centre for Applied Gerontology, Bundoora Extended Care Centre, 2: Aged Care Services, Austin & Repatriation Medical Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia and 3: Clinical Age Research Unit, Department of Health Care of the Elderly, Guys, Kings and St Thomas’ School of Medicine, London, UK

Publication date: December 1, 2001

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