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Position Paper: Technologies for Optimizing Medication Use in Older Adults

2009 | Download

Medication use is ubiquitous among older adults, with 90% of older adults using one or more prescription medications per week. While medications are widely appreciated, commonly used, and help many older adults lead longer, healthier, and more productive lives, there is still great room for improvement in medication use.

Created by PHI's Center for Technology and Aging, this paper identifies and describes issues and opportunities for the Medication Optimization Diffusion Grants Program and related initiatives. The paper provides an overview of the medication use process and discusses three areas of opportunity for medication optimization in older adults: medication reconciliation, medication adherence, and medication monitoring. 

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Medication-use problems can occur at different phases in the medication-use process. To help pinpoint where medicationuse problems occur, what opportunities exist to solve these problems, and which technologies may be beneficial in the process, it is helpful to visualize the medication-use process as a series of five steps or phases: assess, prescribe, dispense, administer, and monitor. Medication reconciliation problems mainly present in the Assess and Prescribe phases of the medicationuse process, whereas medication adherence problems commonly occur in both the Dispense and Administer phases.

A number of technology-enabled interventions can mitigate medication-use problems, optimize process step efficiency, and improve the health and independence of older adults. In alignment with the mission of the Center for Technology and Aging, this paper will focus on technology-enabled interventions predominantly aimed at improving the health of older adults while promoting independent living in community-based, home, and long-term care settings. Patients and caregivers primarily use these technologies to improve self-management of care and enhance communication of medication information to clinicians. The technologies described in this report should be viewed as a limited sample and not an exhaustive list.

Medication optimization solutions that reduce the cost and burden of illness among older adults are urgently needed. While medication-use problems are not limited to older adults, older adults are disproportionately affected by such problems. Greater access to proven medication optimization technologies can lead to safer, more effective medication use among older adults.