Although the definition of polypharmacy has evolved over time, it has been and remains to be an issue in healthcare. With the prevalence of polypharmacy increasing, those in the health care field must remain vigilant of the adverse effects of medications and work to coordinate care and maintain appropriate prescribing practices. Here we present a clinical vignette that describes an encounter of a patient on multiple medications and the individual, provider, and systems‐level issues that may have contributed to an adverse event resulting in a hospital stay. We will discuss the definition of polypharmacy, review the prevalence and economic implications of drug prescription practices, and examine the consequences and complications of polypharmacy in a number of different patient populations. We will discuss a number of scenarios involving polypharmacy that lead to medication errors, decreased quality of life, and patient harm, and then review evidence‐based methods of interventions aimed at reducing the prevalence of polypharmacy and its associated complications.
Part of the book: Vignettes in Patient Safety