The Elderly & Electronic Medication Checklists

Any kind of errors in medication prescriptions can not only cause severe safety issues, but can actually be fatal. Further, when medication is not used accurately, according to Hanlon, J., K. Schmader, and M. Kornkowski, there is an increased chance of the following conditions occurring: confusion, depression, Incorrect use of medications in the elderly can increase the risks of falling, confusion, constipation, depression, hip fractures and immobility. And that is without the concern of what the correct medication is not doing for them. Unfortunately, such errors are more common with seniors since in general they take more medications and often have a change in prescriptions.

A study on this matter was conducted at a hospital in Texas to “assess whether an electronic medication checklist can enhance the accuracy of medication histories for the elderly.” With this, it was found that “medication errors were significantly reduced by using an electronic medication checklist at the time of admission.” Thus it was concluded that by using Electronic Health Record Systems “with decision support for identifying inaccurate doses and frequencies of prescribed medicines,” greater accuracy would occur.

In another study it was found that “prescription drugs were used more frequently by the elderly than by younger people, and the highest overall prevalence of medication use was among adults age 65 years and older: more than 40 percent of ambulatory patients over 65 years old use at least 5 medications per week, and 12 percent use at least 10 medications per week.” It is just simple Math that with more medications there is a higher probability of an error occurring.

Another matter to consider is the importance of Medication Reconciliation (the process by which new orders are compared with current medications) with this demographic. According to an article by Ken Terry in InformationWeek, “discrepancies between the two can result in medication errors.” A checklist study published by ‘Perspectives in Population Health Management,’ found that since it is often not so easy to collect medication histories, 25% of prescriptions in use are not recorded in hospital records and 61% of patients are taking one or more drugs that are not recorded.