Medication safety in older adults: Home-based practice patterns

Joshua P. Metlay, Abigail Cohen, Dan Polsky, Stephen E. Kimmel, Ross Koppel, Sean Hennessy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


OBJECTIVES: To identify the current state of medication-taking practices of community-dwelling older adults on high-risk medications. DESIGN: Telephone survey of older adults filling prescriptions for warfarin, digoxin, or phenytoin from May 2, 2002, through June 30, 2003. SETTING: The Pennsylvania Pharmacy Assistance Contract for the Elderly (PACE) Program, a state-run program providing prescription drug coverage for poor older adults. PARTICIPANTS: PACE members. MEASUREMENTS: Patients self-reported sources of information on current medications as well as home-based practices for organizing medication regimens. RESULTS: Four thousand nine hundred fifty-five PACE members were interviewed. Thirty-two percent of the sample reported that they had not received any specific instructions about their medications, 35% reported that they received instructions from their primary care provider, and 46% indicated they received them from a pharmacist. Fifty-four percent of participants indicated that they used a pillbox for organizing their medications. Older adults prescribed warfarin were more likely to report receiving instructions than those prescribed digoxin or phenytoin. CONCLUSION: A substantial proportion of older adults on high-risk medications do not recall receiving instructions for the use of their medications and do not take advantage of existing systems for organizing medication regimens. Improved patient education and delivery of medication organization systems are immediate opportunities to potentially reduce the risk of medication errors in older people.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)976-982
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Aged
  • Ambulatory care
  • Drug assessment
  • Medication errors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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