Pills of various sizes, shapes and colours

Keeping patients alive by monitoring their medication

Every year, the inappropriate use of medicines triggers over 250,000 hospital admissions, with many Australians suffering adverse reactions. But it’s not just our health suffering: the attendant cost to taxpayers and insurance companies is around $1.4 billion.

To combat this, researchers at UniSA’s Quality Use of Medicines and Pharmacy Research Centre have developed unique algorithms that monitor healthcare systems. The algorithms scan the disease, medication and device registered for each patient to identify potential problems in health care.

UniSA research is promoting safe medicine use, improving patient wellbeing and reducing the number of Australians admitted to hospital due to medication-related problems.

One striking example of this work is the Veterans’ Medicines Advice & Therapeutics Education Services (Veterans’ MATES) program, a collaboration between UniSA and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA). Using specialist data analysis techniques, veterans at risk of medication-related problems can be identified, their prescribers notified, and educational material provided to both.

So far, Veterans’ MATES has helped over 295,000 veterans, 33,000 doctors, 8,500 pharmacies and 2,600 residential aged-care facilities with improved care and health outcomes for the patients, and significant improvements to our healthcare practices. As a result, a model of the program is being trailed in New Zealand.

Dr Graeme Killer AO, former Principal Medical Officer to the DVA is proud of the partnership with UniSA. “We created a truly exemplar program that resulted in profound improvements in veterans’ health outcomes, cost efficiencies and behavioural change in healthcare provision. The national public learning from this highly successful program for veterans has been far-reaching across the wider health system, as well as being acclaimed globally.”

This algorithms to identify potential signals of previously unrecognized adverse reactions is now being deployed in countries in Asia, North America and Europe, utilising the data from different public health systems and demonstrating the potential of global medicine surveillance.

Combining biostatistical and behavioural psychology approaches with clinical evidence, researchers at UniSA’s Quality Use of Medicines and Pharmacy Research Centre have developed a unique model to ensure medications and medical devices are used safely; and it’s saving public healthcare dollars, too.