Barriers to conducting deprescribing in the elderly population amid the COVID-19 pandemic
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Deprescribing aims to reduce polypharmacy, especially in the elderly population, in order to maintain or improve quality of life, reduce harm from medications, and limit healthcare expenditure. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease that has led to a pandemic and has changed the lives many throughout the world. The mode of transmission of this virus is from person to person through the transfer of respiratory droplets. Therefore, non-essential healthcare services involving direct patient interactions, including deprescribing, has been on hiatus to reduce spread. Barriers to deprescribing before the pandemic include patient and system related factors, such as resistance to change, patient's knowledge deficit about deprescribing, lack of alternatives for treatment of disease, uncoordinated delivery of health services, prescriber's attitudes and/or experience, limited availability of guidelines for deprescribing, and lack of evidence on preventative therapy. Some of these barriers can be mitigated by using the following interventions:patient education, prioritization of non-pharmacological therapy, incorporation of electronic health record (EHR), continuous prescriber education, and development of research studies on deprescribing. Currently, deprescribing cannot be delivered through in person interactions, so virtual care is a reasonable alternative format. The full incorporation of EHR throughout Canada can add to the success of this strategy. However, there are several challenges of conducting deprescribing virtually in the elderly population. These challenges include, but are not limited, to their inability to use technology, lack of literacy, lack of assistance from others, greater propensity for withdrawal effects, and increased risk of severe consequences, if hospitalized. Virtual care is the future of healthcare and in order to retain the benefits of deprescribing, additional initiatives should be in place to address the challenges that elderly patients may experience in accessing deprescribing virtually. These initiatives should involve teaching elderly patients how to use technology to access health services and with technical support in place to address any concerns.