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Preventing Falls In Seniors With Better Medication Adherence

Falls are the number one cause of injury, hospital visits due to trauma, and death from an injury among people age 65 and older. Medications are commonly implicated as causative factors in falls in elderly. In this brief article, we review some of the falls-related medication adherence statistics and explore one aspect of how technology can help in preventing falls in seniors by increasing medication adherence.

Falls are the leading cause of injury, trauma-related hospital visits and death for seniors[1]. With our rapidly aging society, the numbers continue to grow as more than 10,000 people turn 65, each day!  It’s important to also note that more than one out of four older people falls each year but less than half tell their doctor. In fact, falling once doubles your chances of falling again. Finally, in the period 2007-2016, death rate due to falls  increased 30%.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC):

  • One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury.
  • Each year, 3 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.
  • Over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture.
  • Each year at least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures.
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways.
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
  • In 2015, the total medical costs for falls totaled more than $50 billion.

If we explore the impact of medications on the rate of falls, the burden of taking multiple medications (polypharmacy) is associated with greater health care costs, increased adverse drug events, drug interactions, medication non-adherence, reduced functional capacity and multiple geriatric syndromes.

Use of four or more medications is associated with increased risk of falling and risk of recurrent falls

Improving medication adherence is one major factor promoted to reduce falls. While some specific medications and conditions can cause dizziness and lead to a fall, sometimes it’s not because of the actual medications, rather, adherence may have a greater impact.

According to the World Health Organization, medication adherence can have a more direct impact on patient outcomes than the specific treatment itself.[2] Medication adherence can affect quality and length of life, health outcomes, and overall healthcare costs. Nonadherence can account for up to 50% of treatment failures.

Low medication adherence was associated with a 50% increased rate of falls compared with high medication adherence[3]

Increasing Medication Adherence

We’ve previously explored the common reasons seniors do not take their medications in an earlier article. The top 10 reasons seniors do not take their medications were highlighted here: Top 10 Reasons Seniors Do Not Take Their Medications.

Providing better control of medication consumption, consistency and monitoring is the key to improving adherence among seniors. Medipense was founded on the principal of enabling better medication adherence though digital health. Medipense has examined each core reason for non-adherence, interviewed patients, caregivers, physicians and other health care providers. Medipense developed the patented RxPense® medication management and remote patient monitoring appliance.

Designed specifically for seniors of all ages and mobility, the RxPense® automatically dispenses the pills. When it is time to take a dose, the RxPense® will alert via voice, music, alarms or other supported notification methods. With advanced Voice Biometrics, the RxPense® can authenticate a voice, and only that voice, to ensure the user is authorized.

With an RxPense® at a Residence or Clinic, the senior or patient can communicate with caregivers and receive the right medications at the right time. A nurse or caregiver can monitor the patient, 24×7 and receive alerts to avert poor outcomes. Administrators have a full audit trail and record of medication adherence along with patient vitals on which to base their decisions. Better data, more timely data, helps better outcomes.

In using an automated assistive medication device with reminders, monitoring and follow-up by caregivers, Medipense hopes to increase medication adherence, thus reduce this as a cause of primary and secondary fall for seniors.

[1] Bergen G, Stevens MR, Burns ER. Falls and Fall Injuries Among Adults Aged ≥65 Years — United States, 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:993–998. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6537a2

[2] Brown MT, Bussell JK. Medication adherence: WHO cares? Mayo Clin Proc. 2011;86(4):304-314.

[3] Berry, Sarah & Quach, Lien & Procter-Gray, Elizabeth & P Kiel, Douglas & Li, Wenjun & J Samelson, Elizabeth & Lipsitz, Lewis & L Kelsey, Jennifer. (2010). Poor Adherence to Medications May Be Associated with Falls. The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences. 65. 553-8. 10.1093/gerona/glq027.

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