Prescription alerts can help people stick with the medication routine they need to stay healthy and keep chronic conditions under control. For most people who are basically healthy, prescription reminders are mostly a matter of convenience. You can save time and shorten a "to-do" list by having the pharmacy send e-mail reminders when a prescription refill is needed or a text message announcing a prescription pick-up time.
But for the elderly and their caregivers, keeping medication on track is a serious matter. For starters, older adults need to take the right medications in the right amount on time to manage their conditions and illnesses. But seniors may forget and skip a dose, or they may take the required dose more than once. They also may misunderstand instructions or be unable to read prescription labels. And elders may not be able to keep up with multiple reorders that are due at different times.
More seriously, mix-ups with prescription drugs can result in illness, hospitalization or death. Older adults face a greater risk of serious adverse drug events, such as falls, depression, confusion, hallucinations or malnutrition, when drugs are combined inappropriately or side effects aren't monitored.
In fact, 23 percent of all nursing home admissions are because patients didn't take prescription medications accurately, according to the American Heart Association. But 25 percent of serious adverse drug events are preventable, according to statistics from the National Council on Patient Information and Education, a consortium of consumer groups, healthcare organizations, government agencies and pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Prescription alerts may provide one of the easiest forms of prevention. And that's a relief, too, for millions of adult children who want to make sure their elderly parents follow the routine they need to stay healthy. That takes in plenty of Americans. One in four U.S. households have someone at least 18 years old caring for someone over age 50, according to a study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) [source: AARP Magazine].
With all sorts of prescription alerts available, let's look first at some of the e-notifications and software that can provide reminders and help manage medications.