Preventing medication errors for our elderly in Connecticut with technology

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Planning is what we are taught in our society.  We plan for our retirement, we plan for our children’s education, we plan for our next vacations.  What we do not plan for is the illness of a loved one.  My family was faced with the sudden illness of my dad last spring.  After a very critical time spent in the hospital, he was sent home with a new, very complex medication list to manage.  This was something our family never thought to plan for.

The population in Connecticut is aging.  According to recent statistics, “over the last seven years, the number of people over the age of 65 has increased by almost 100,000, while the number in their prime working years between 18 and 65 has fallen by 15,000.”  As residents of Connecticut, we need to start planning for our elders to make sure they stay safe by reducing medication errors which can cause illness, especially for those who are already sick.

Medication compliance is a problem in our society.  We live in the digital age and technology is always advancing.  Our grandparents are using computers and smart phones, and these tools can help aid in the scheduling and dispensing of daily medications.  The elderly population is growing in Connecticut, and technology can assist with the prevention of medication errors.

Taking medications properly and on schedule is vital in disease management or disease prevention.  Anyone who has been prescribed medication may have accidentally skipped a dose at one time or another.  Imagine a senior who may have numerous medications to track and schedule.  This can be a complex task.

A company right here in Connecticut is focused on helping our aging family members by providing them with tools to live independently.  Assisted Living Technologies, Inc. sells pill boxes that are electronically tracked and have alarms that go off when medication is not taken.  The devices can track compliance.  The information is stored on a portal for family members to monitor from afar.  The monthly fee is approximately $40  to $70. Family members can have peace of mind knowing that the medications prescribed are being tracked and taken properly.

Many healthcare providers have an online portal that provides a current medication list.  Many sites allow for easy look-up of medication dosage and provide the ability to request refills directly to the provider’s office without picking up a phone.  Using the provider patient portal will result in fewer medication errors because designated family members can monitor the patient’s medication compliance.

For active on-the-go seniors, there are apps that can be downloaded to smart phones to help track medications and schedules.  These apps allow a busier person to take medications safely and keep their active life style.   An example of one such application is Medisafe, the pill and medication reminder app.  The goal of this application is to reduce risk by ensuring that medication is taken as prescribed.

In Connecticut, we need to remember, care for, and protect our elders from preventable harm.  One way we can do so is to ensure that our older population has the tools needed to manage their daily medications.  As technology advances, we need to think about how we too can advance by using the technology to our benefit. The days of paper medication lists and simple medication boxes could cease to exist in time.

Using portals, smart phone applications, and advanced technologies for medication tracking, we will help to keep our loved ones safe from medication harm.  These tools will help keep our seniors compliant with their medication regime, prevent accidental overdosing, contribute to seniors’ ability to take medication at the scheduled time, prevent drug interactions, and enhance coordination among providers and care givers.  With our younger generation moving out of the state and seniors staying in our state, we need to think about how we can keep our elders safe from medication harm.

Allyson Ruganis is a student at Goodwin College.


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