Managing multiple medications in older adults with AI

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As people age, it’s not uncommon for them to start taking multiple medications. In many cases, older adults find themselves taking five or more different drugs daily, a situation known as polypharmacy. This can increase the risk of harmful interactions between drugs.

One way to reduce this risk is by cutting back on unnecessary medications, a process called deprescribing. However, deciding which drugs to stop can be difficult and time-consuming for doctors.

In recent times, primary care doctors, especially those handling a large number of elderly patients, have been under significant pressure.

They often find themselves managing these complex medication schedules, made even more challenging by the fact that many older patients see several specialists, each prescribing different medications.

To help with this, researchers at Mass General Brigham MESH Incubator have explored how ChatGPT, an AI-powered chatbot, can assist in managing these medication regimens.

The findings of their study, published in the Journal of Medical Systems, mark the first instance of such technology being used to aid in medication management.

The researchers tested ChatGPT by presenting it with various scenarios involving an elderly patient on multiple medications.

They modified the patient’s history of cardiovascular disease and their ability to perform daily activities to see how ChatGPT would respond to questions about reducing medications.

ChatGPT generally advised cutting back on medications for patients without a history of heart disease. However, it was more cautious with patients who had heart conditions, often suggesting keeping their medication regimens unchanged.

Interestingly, the AI did not significantly weigh the patient’s ability to manage daily activities in its decisions.

One notable finding was that ChatGPT tended to recommend stopping pain medications more often than other types of drugs, such as those for cholesterol or blood pressure.

This was a concern since managing pain effectively is crucial for the quality of life in older adults.

Additionally, the researchers noticed that ChatGPT’s recommendations could vary between sessions, which could reflect its training on diverse and sometimes inconsistent information.

More than 40% of older adults are in the polypharmacy category. With the rising number of specialists involved in the care of these patients, primary care doctors are often left with the complex task of coordinating these medications.

A reliable AI tool could significantly ease this burden by providing consistent and accurate advice on managing multiple medications.

Marc Succi, MD, the senior corresponding author of the study, highlighted the potential of ChatGPT as a clinical support tool. However, he emphasized the need for improvements in accuracy before such tools can be widely used.

His colleague, Arya Rao, a researcher and medical student, also pointed out the importance of refining these AI tools. He noted that ensuring safe medication practices through advanced AI could significantly improve the care of elderly patients.

Overall, this study opens the door to future research in AI-assisted medication management, suggesting a potentially valuable role for AI in reducing the workload on primary care providers and enhancing patient care.

As these tools evolve, they may become a standard part of managing health care for older adults, helping to ensure that they receive the safest and most effective treatment.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about how eating eggs can help reduce heart disease risk, and herbal supplements could harm your heart rhythm.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about how drinking milk affects risks of heart disease and cancer, and results showing strawberries could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

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