Clinical Pharmacy Services in Older Inpatients: An Evidence-Based Review

  • Lorenz Van der LindenEmail author
  • Julie Hias
  • Karolien Walgraeve
  • Johan Flamaing
  • Jos Tournoy
  • Isabel Spriet
Review Article



Hospital admissions in older adults are frequently drug related and avoidable. Clinical pharmacy interventions during hospital stay might reduce drug-related harm and reduce hospital visits. Moreover, several recent positive clinical pharmacy investigations incorporated a transitional care component to further improve medication use after discharge. It is currently unclear what the strength of evidence is and what the exact components should be of such clinical pharmacy interventions in older adults.


An evidence-based review was performed to determine the status of the evidence and also to explore whether a clinical pharmacy intervention incorporating transitional care was associated with reduced hospital visits after discharge.


Prospective controlled investigations were included if they contained a clinical pharmacy intervention that was initiated before discharge in older inpatients. Relevant quasi-experimental and randomized controlled trials were searched in MEDLINE. First, an evidence-based review was performed, including a description of the study design, characteristics, and outcomes. Major components of successful clinical pharmacy interventions were described and potential implications for clinical practice and research were determined. Second, the Fisher’s exact test was used to explore the association between transitional care and reduced hospital visits. Third, based on these findings, a medication review proposal was developed to improve medication use in older adults.


Thirty-five studies were included, with 26 randomized controlled trials. Median patient follow-up after discharge was 90 days (interquartile range 37–180 days) and investigators enrolled a median of 210 (interquartile range 110–498) study participants. On average, patients were aged 77.5 years (interquartile range 73–82.2 years). Nine randomized controlled trials had sufficient power to detect a reduction in hospital visits after discharge; this was reduced in three randomized controlled trials. Post-discharge follow-up was not associated with reduced post-discharge hospital visits (20 randomized controlled trials: follow-up vs. no follow-up: 6/11 vs. 1/9, p = 0.070). There was a significant reduction in post-discharge hospital visits in patients aged 75 years or older (12 randomized controlled trials: follow-up vs. no follow-up: 5/7 vs. 0/5, p = 0.028). A medication review proposal was developed, consisting of six steps.


Three powered randomized controlled trials were identified that found a significant association between a pharmacist-led intervention in older adults and a reduction in post-discharge hospital visits. In clinical practice, an intervention consisting of medication reconciliation, review, counseling, and post-discharge follow-up should be provided to such high-risk inpatients. Regarding research priorities, large, multi-center randomized controlled trials should be performed to generate more evidence on the impact of clinical pharmacy interventions on the patient trajectory and economic outcomes.


Author Contributions

All authors contributed to the manuscript. The first draft was written by the first author (LVDL) and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscripts. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards


Lorenz Van der Linden and Isabel Spriet have received a clinical scholarship from the Clinical Research Fund of UZ Leuven.

Conflict of interest

Lorenz Van der Linden, Julie Hias, Karolien Walgraeve, Johan Flamaing, Jos Tournoy, and Isabel Spriet have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pharmacy DepartmentUniversity Hospitals LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological SciencesKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  3. 3.Department of Geriatric MedicineUniversity Hospitals LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  4. 4.Department of Chronic Diseases, Metabolism and AgeingKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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