Information technology has a vital role to lay in cutting medication-related errors and improving medication adherence among older people, suggests a recent report.

The report says that of the 3 billion medication prescriptions issued each year in the US, 12% are never picked up by the patient and 40% are not taken correctly.

Published by the US Centre for Technology and Aging in Oakland, California, the report says "widespread use" of technology aimed at older people has the potential to save thousands of lives and billions of dollars.

"More widespread use of technologies that reduce the cost and burden of medication-related illness among older adults is urgently needed," said David Lindeman, the centre’s director.

According to a ten-year old estimate by the US Institute of Medicine, more than two million serious adverse drug events and about 100,000 deaths occur annually due to adverse medication problems.

The New England Healthcare Institute has meanwhile estimated that $290 billion in healthcare costs could be avoided if medication adherence were improved.

"Medication non-adherence is responsible for up to 33% to 69% of medication-related hospital admissions and 23% of all nursing home admissions," said Lindeman.

The report addresses three areas of opportunity for medication optimisation: reconciliation, adherence and monitoring.

The report describes different technologies currently in use or under development within the three areas, along with an assessment of their pros and cons and future potential.

Technologies described include: medication kiosks, online personal medication records, smart pill bottles, mobile phone apps with medication management, reporting and trending features; and wireless point-of-care testing devices to monitor medication use.

"Ultimately, medication optimization technologies can lead to significant improvements in the cost and quality of care for older adults," said Lindeman.