As the baby boomer generation advances in age, elderly populations continue to grow. The elderly are more likely to lose track of their medications. Polypharmacy is a major risk for patients over the age of 65, and adverse drug effects (ADEs) are a primary reason that elderly patients visit emergency departments and use emergency medical services (EMS).

Polypharmacy Drives Elderly Emergency Care

The elderly tend to have longer and more complicated medical histories than other age groups. A recent study shows that patients over the age of 65 who visited the emergency department were taking an average of three to four medications daily. For patients 85 and older, that number was even greater, around six. As the number of prescriptions taken goes up, the risk of prescribing error as well as ADEs also rises. Although the researchers could not find a direct connection between polypharmacy and ADEs, 11% of the patients in the study receiving emergency treatment had ADEs.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the year 2000, there were about 35 million people over age 65 in the United States. By 2050 the number is expected to reach 80 million. The elderly require EMS for transport more than any other age group. Patients over the age of 85 account for more than 10% of EMS-transported patients, although they only account for 3% of all ED visits.

How do Obamacare or Trumpcare Affect Seniors’ Prescriptions?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), also known as “Obamacare,” has reportedly saved over $23 billion in prescriptions for more than 10.7 million people. Senior citizen Medicare beneficiaries receive generic and brand-name prescription drugs at a discounted rate in order to close the insurance coverage gap. Under the Obamacare, prescription coverage (along with mental health and maternal care) is required in all insurance plans.

The newest version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), more commonly referred to as “Trumpcare,” will enable states to exempt insurance companies from the above benefits if the states can demonstrate that their removal will result in lowered costs of health care or increased overall coverage. Trumpcare makes a number of provisions that by 2020 will remove requirements to provide Obamacare-designated health benefits, such as emergency services and prescription drugs. Additionally, funds for Medicaid will be capped which have a major impact on seniors and disabled children.

These changes make medications potentially less affordable for seniors even if they have coverage, which will make getting prescriptions, as well as adhering to them, harder to manage.

PrognoCIS and Medication Management for Adherence

PrognoCIS partners with Surescripts to provide Medication Management for Adherence, as well as e-Prescription, as part of PrognoCIS EHR. Medication Management for Adherence enables doctors to closely monitor through alerts how their elderly patients are taking their medications, and to have better communication about how to properly take those medications.

Along with the Medication Management for Adherence by Surescripts, PrognoCIS delivers a range of tools like the Patient Portal and Telemedicine in order to increase communication between doctors and their patients, which can be an added benefit when providing care to elderly patients who may have limited mobility.
PrognoCIS and Surescripts presented a joint webinar on May 31 about Medication Management for Adherence. Click here to see PrognoCIS’s webinar archive.

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